From the outside, space suits look deceptively simple. Covered in layers of protective materials and insulation, their Marshmallow Man exteriors do little to hint at the complex technologies that hide underneath. But a series of X-ray images, currently on view at the National Air and Space Museum as part of the Suited for Space exhibition, give a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the mechanics that have helped astronauts make their suborbital trips.
“When one looks at the exterior of a suit, you’re only seeing part of the story,” says Cathy Lewis, curator of space history at the museum. By looking at the skeletal interior structure, she adds, “one can see the artistry that goes into building the suits.” She’s right—the apparitional images could easily stand alone as art, but the X-rays reveal much more than that.