Why Did Apollo Space Suits Have External Hoses?

Someone recently asked: Weren’t the external hoses on the Apollo astronauts’ space suits a risk?

Excellent question. Yes, they were a risk, but an easily managed one with huge benefits.

  1. First, the risk of damage was managed by:
    1. Enclosing the tubes inside braided stainless steel as is done today in better plumbing supply hoses. That, in addition to a multi-layer insulation and abrasion wrap made them pretty snug.
    2. Providing the astronauts with spare hoses.
  2. Second, using the hoses made it easy to:
    1. Decouple the suit and the PLSS–even during an EVA–in case of emergency, or in case of entrapment.
    2. Recharge, clean, and service the suits and life support (PLSS) packs.
    3. Connect the same (multi-million dollar) suits to the space craft interior life support console for use during dangerous maneuvers (like liftoff and reentry).
    4. Buddy breathe off another astronaut’s suit in case of damage or failure of a PLSS.
    5. Use the same (multi-million dollar) spacesuit for tethered EVAs using a long umbilical connected the the life support console inside the spacecraft.

Apollo 17 Command Module Pilot, Ron Evans, performing an EVA to retrieve films shot from an experiment rack. Note that he is wearing the backup emergency life support pack, but no larger primary pack. Instead, both the emergency pack and a long umbilical connect to the suit connectors.

What do you think? Did the gains outweigh the costs? Please rate and leave a comment and let me know. And if you liked this post, you’ll love my upcoming story in Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Pop over to www.cSuartHardwick.com for a free signed e-sampler of award-winning scifi.