From his career as a test pilot to his famous first steps on the moon, Neil Armstrong donned all kinds of interesting outfits at work. While filming the new Armstrong biopic "First Man," lead actor Ryan Gosling got to look and feel like the real Neil while wearing some of the astronaut's most iconic suits.
In an interview at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Gosling told reporters that he had "a lot of appreciation and admiration for the suits themselves and the way they had been made." When real NASA astronauts were on the set, he said they all gave the authentic-looking spacesuit replicas "the seal of approval ... and that felt good."
Using archival images from a NASA database, costume designer Mary Zophres said she "was able to research exactly what the astronauts were wearing at any given time," according to a statement by Universal Pictures, the studio behind the film. "NASA's database is like a treasure trove of information," Zophres said. "We go from X-15 to Gemini V to Gemini VIII to Apollo 1 and then Apollo 11. As the space program progressed, the documentation of it became more and more intense. As the country got closer to Apollo 11, they documented it more thoroughly." [Gallery: Evolution of the Spacesuit]
The movie opens with a nail-biting scene depicting a time in which Armstrong nearly met his end during a 1962 test flight of the X-15 experimental aircraft. In the movie trailer above (starting at the 30-second mark), you can see Gosling's Armstrong fight to gain control of the aircraft while descending back to Earth from an altitude of over 207,000 feet (63 kilometers). That's roughly two-thirds of the way to the edge of space. In this scene, Gosling dons a baggy, metallic bodysuit
This shiny garment is "basically a loose-fitting bag shaped like a human with rings at the wrists and neck to attach the gloves and helmet," NASA officials said in a statement. "If the cockpit depressurizes, the suit inflates to maintain a safe atmospheric pressure around the occupant until the aircraft has reached a low enough altitude for the suit to deflate."
When Armstrong launched on his first spaceflight in 1966 — the Gemini 8 in-orbit rendezvous and docking mission that almost killed him (again) — he wore a slightly modified version of the X-15 pressure suit known as the G4C.
These flexible spacesuits are made of nylon and are better-insulated to protect against extreme temperatures in space. This was the same spacesuit worn by NASA astronaut Ed White during the first U.S. spacewalk. In "First Man," Gosling and Christopher Abbott, who plays the NASA astronaut and Gemini 8 pilot Dave Scott, both wear these Gemini spacesuits.
Last but certainly not least, Gosling got to slip into the iconic Apollo 11 spacesuit. Officially known as an Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), this bulky, white suit allows astronauts to spend extended periods of time outside of their spacecraft. Armstrong used one to walk on the moon. EMUs serve as portable life-support systems, whereas earlier spacesuits required the astronaut to be tethered to a spacecraft.
Gosling wore a carefully crafted replica of the Apollo 11 spacesuit for the movie, and the suit Armstrong wore is currently housed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.