I could say “how have I never heard of this!?” but the truth is I wasn’t blogging about space in February 2006 when this image was taken. Still, it’s no less incredible to watch! But if you’re not already familiar with this, it may not be exactly what you think…
It might appear to be a lone astronaut drifting in orbit, akin to Bruce McCandless’ historic untethered flight 320 feet from Challenger in 1984 (except lacking any way to return to safety) but this suit is thankfully vacant — it’s was part of the SuitSat-1 experiment in which an unused Russian Orlan space suit was released from the ISS by Expedition 12 crew members on Feb. 3, 2006.
Besides being stuffed with old clothes, the suit was outfitted with three batteries, internal sensors and a radio transmitter, which faintly transmitted previously- recorded voices of school children to amateur radio operators worldwide before it burned up on re-entry several weeks later.
Yes, I said transmitted voices of children. [shudder]
Check out a video of the SuitSat release below:
Even though I know there’s nobody in there it’s still really eerie to watch a person-shaped suit drift motionless out into space. It’s the stuff of sci-fi nightmares… let’s hope we never see this happen with an occupied one! (At least not in reality — keep it on the big screen.)