Designer Steven B. Wheeler explains his NASA-inspired prototype:
I've been a space geek for as long as I can remember. As a kid, my parents would wake me and my brother before dawn, and we'd go out to a field to lay on our backs and watch the Perseids meteor shower. The local planetarium was my happy place. There were space shuttles, stars, galaxies, and ringed planets printed on the sheets of my little twin bed. I saved up my allowance and lawn-mowing money to buy model rocketry kits from the local hobby shop. My favorite book, Carl Sagan's Cosmos, was given to me by my 5th grade science teacher, who, on the weekends, was also a pilot.
To this day, there is still nothing more heroic to me than the image of a NASA astronaut, someone with the courage, intelligence, and stamina to ride a pillar of explosives into space. When the Space Shuttle Endeavor, strapped to the top of a 747, passed overhead on its farewell tour over the Bay Area a year ago, I turned back into a 10-year-old, jumping up and down and cheering as loudly as I could.
I designed this jacket as a tribute to the continuing legacy of American spaceflight. I wanted it to embody everything I loved about the space program, and to eventually serve as an actual flight jacket for present-day astronauts on missions to the ISS (International Space Station). There are other “replica” flight jackets made for space enthusiasts, but I decided to come up with something boldly different, yet also completely wearable and well-suited for space.
I drew my design inspiration from the exterior of the Space Shuttle, with the quilted lines of stitching echoing the paneled surface of the spacecraft.
The white, non-woven Tyvek shell also calls to mind the EVA (extra-vehicular activity) suits worn by astronauts during spacewalks. The inside lining is a silvered nylon taffeta, chosen not only because it visually references the “foil” MLI (multi-layer insulation) used on the exterior of satellites, but also because it helps retain radiant body heat.
The insulation in the jacket is Primaloft Sport, an ultra-efficient synthetic insulation that is light, compressible, and soft. To help keep weight down, I used elastic binding around the cuffs and hood opening instead of drawcords or Velcro.
My prototype includes a replica of the STS-53 shuttle mission patch, the famous NASA “worm” logo used from 1975-1992, and an American flag shoulder patch, like the ones on EVA suits. Note: If this jacket is successfully funded, it will include several patches that attach via Velcro, like authentic flight-jacket patches; those we ultimately choose to include may differ slightly from the ones shown here.