orlan spacesuit

The NASA Village

Today in the NASA Village… You Need to Experience It

Did you know trainers need to experience some of the astronaut training for themselves so they can better guide and relate to our experiences?

Sarah Korona is our EVA (extravehicular activity or spacewalk) lead for our expedition. She has the overall responsibility for my training and any on orbit activities that involve a spacewalk. Above she is trying on an Orlan spacesuit.

Have you ever seen or heard of an Orlan spacesuit? It is a Russian spacesuit where you enter from the back (this is called rear entry)! You can see Sarah getting in an Orlan in the photo. It is actually great for “donning” the suit more easily, as compared to the US EMU. However, the Russian suit has only one upper torso size (as compared to 3 sizes in the US suit). I can attest that it is made for someone quite a bit larger than me! My first spacewalk was in the Orlan space suit. Orlan means eagle in Russian language…and since I felt how I imagine a bird must feel flying over our planet, I thought it was very aptly named. 

The reason it is essential for NASA Villagers like Sarah Korona to try on different spacesuits is because they will be directing the astronauts in the pool. Knowing the limitations of the suit and experiencing the suit first hand will better prepare them to relate to the astronauts experience.

Above Sarah is in an American spacesuit (an EMU–extravehicular mobility unit or space walking suit). Sarah’s knowledge and hand size came in handy one day as I was donning the US EMU. I noticed an irregularity in my glove before I did the underwater run. I knew it would not be possible to complete the training in that configuration. Sarah was able to test out the problem herself because of her experience in the suit and able to fix it on the pool deck. I then put on the glove and was able to complete the training.  

This type of familiarity and knowledge with the suits enables her to assist the crew, not only on the pool deck, but even more importantly, when we are in space. She has the expertise to offer suggestions and techniques for us to try when we run into problems (as invariably we do). Those communication skills we talked about are important for the crew to describe the problems accurately and with enough detail that the ground teams can come up with some options and solutions for us. It is so amazing to be a part of this team!

Next time on the NASA Village… Gremlins in the Console.

Do you want more stories? Find our NASA Villagers here!