The First Spacesuit Was Invented in the 1930s

Emilio Herrera Linares, the Spanish military engineer, was a man ahead of his time. He is remembered for his groundbreaking contributions to the fields of cosmology, high-altitude flight, spaceflight, and computing. Among his many achievements, he is credited with designing one of the first pressurized space suits in 1935.


Have you ever wondered who invented the first spacesuit? My first guess would be probably NASA, but the truth is that long before the first man went into space, a Spanish engineer came up with the very first spacesuit in history. So who was this man? Known for his work in cosmology and pioneering studies for high-altitude flight, spaceflight, and computing, Emilio Herrera Linares was a Spanish Military engineer credited for designing one of the first pressurized spacesuits in 1935.

Who was Emilia Herrera Linares?

Born into a privileged family in Granada in 1879, Emilio Herrera’s fascination with aviation and aerostatics began at a young age. His father’s military background and avid consumption of Jules Verne’s novels shaped this passion.


Growing up in an environment that nurtured curiosity and scientific exploration, Emilio decided to pursue his dreams. He enlisted in the army to study aerospace engineering at the Engineers Academy in Guadalajara. With his education complete, he specialized in aerostats or hot-air balloons. At the onset of his military career, he actively served in the air balloon regiment and took part in military campaigns in North Africa. Remarkably, he etched his name in history by successfully becoming the first person to cross the Strait of Gibraltar by air.


The first “spacesuit”

The prototype spacesuit he had designed was tested in 1935. It overcame all the imposed challenges: it protected the user from solar radiation, resisted temperature changes and extreme pressures, and had oxygen that offered its user up to two hours’ worth of breathable air. While designing the spacesuit, his greatest achievement was solving a great mobility problem while wearing the suit by giving accordion-shaped parts to the suit’s joints.

Space suit designed by military engineer Emilio Herrera Linares for a stratospheric balloon flight. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Spacesuit designed by military engineer Emilio Herrera Linares for a stratospheric balloon flight. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

A spacesuit design that was further developed

This design was something that NASA eventually picked up and applied, although it took them a few decades more. The suit was made by superimposed layers of wool, rubber, canvas reinforced with steel cables, and a layer of silver to prevent warming. The spacesuit’s hull was composed of a steel sheet. It was layered with felt and covered in polished aluminum, with triple unbreakable glass and filters to protect the eyes from ultraviolet light.

The first spacesuit weighed 127 kilograms

In addition, it had a radiotelephone communication system. This spacesuit weighed 127 kilograms, only three kilograms more than the suits used by NASA since 1982. Herrera was a brilliant and futuristic scientist who dreamed of a transoceanic airline that would unite Europe and America. It is noteworthy to mention that Russell Colley created the spacesuits worn by the Project Mercury astronauts, including fitting Alan Shepard for his ride as America’s first man in space on May 5, 1961


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Written by Justin Gurkinic

Hey, my name is Justin, and my friends call me Gurk. Why? Becuase of my last name. It sounds like a vegetable. Kind of. I love sleeping and writing. History is my thing.

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