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Designing Across Senses by John Alderman, Christine W. Park

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Chapter 10. Form Factors and Configurations

TO PROTECT SPACE TRAVELERS from the 500-degree temperature swing, radiation, and the unforgiving void of space, the original astronaut suits went through countless concepts and prototypes. What many people might not know is who made the handmade suits worn by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin when they first stepped on the surface of the moon. The company Playtex, at the time most well known for creating women’s undergarments like girdles and bras, lent its expertise and seamstresses to that groundbreaking mission.

Each of the 21 layers of the suit served a specific purpose, from managing pressurization to wicking body moisture and sweat. The suit itself was modular, which ensured the integrity of the suit and its life support systems. This also allowed the astronauts to put it on, take it off, and maintain it. In an open competition to design the suit, the unlikely team from ILC (originally International Latex Corporation) won against engineering teams who already worked often with the space program at the time. The comfort and physical dexterity of the soft suit (combined with its ability to fulfill the environmental requirements of extravehicular activity) gave it the edge against submissions from two other manufacturing competitors who had done a great deal of work already with the space program.1

While outer space is a much harsher context than the average personal device is designed for, the same principles apply. Form factors, or ...

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