Related preceding technologies include the gas mask used in WWII, the oxygen mask used by pilots of high flying bombers in WWII, the high altitude or vacuum suit required by pilots of the Lockheed U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird, the diving suit, rebreather, scuba diving gear and many others.
The development of the spheroidal dome helmet was key in balancing the need for field of view, pressure compensation, and low weight.
Spacesuit models of historical significance
- High altitude suits
- Wiley Post experimented with a number of hard-shell designs for record-breaking flights
- Russian suit models
- Mercury high-altitude/vacuum suit
- Gemini spacewalk suits
- Apollo lunar surface suits
- Space Shuttle
- Emerging technologies
- Hard shell
- Space activity suit
Spacesuits in fiction
Fiction authors have been trying to design spacesuits since the beginning of space fiction, as far as there was need to describe them in their stories. Most of them are flexible pressure suits, but usually not as bulky as in real spacesuits. Design was influenced by the real old-type Siebe Gorman Standard diving dress, including sometimes such features as side windows on the helmet. In H.G. Wells's The First men in the Moon (publ. 1901) Standard Diving Dresses are fitted with a big backpack cylinder each and used as spacesuits. Many fictional spacesuits have two big backpack cylinders as their only life-support gear, as if the wearer breathes out to space like in ordinary sport open-circuit scuba. In the well-known Dan Dare series which started in April 1950 in the `Eagle' comic, the usual Spacefleet spacesuit has no backpack, and a corselet like in Standard Diving Dress. Comic-strip space story authors often do not know about the effects of internal pressure inflating the spacesuit in space, but draw the spacesuit in space hanging in folds like a boilersuit: that can often be seen in the Dan Dare stories.
Skintight spacesuits (skinsuits) appear in the original Buck Rogers comics. The Buck Rogers scenario has become familiar enough to cause expressions such as "Buck Rogers outfit" for real protective suits that look somewhat like spacesuits. Skinsuits are more common in modern science fiction. On the other end of the spectrum one can find the ideas of heavy powered armor. Robert Heinlein's novel Have Space Suit, Will Travel draws on his experience designing pressure suits during World War II.
It is possible that fictional spacesuit design influenced real spacesuit design somewhat, at least in getting real spacesuits to use a hard helmet and not a soft pressurized hood.
Alien spacesuits in the Gerry Anderson UFO series are filled with a breathable liquid to resist acceleration stresses.
After NASA started, fictional spacesuits often followed real spacesuit design, in such features as having a large rectangular backpack.
NASA JSC Oral History Project: See link near page end to Walking to Olympus: An EVA Chronology PDF document.