The NASA 39A flight jacket just blasted off.
The first NASA-branded product from OROS, an outerwear company that was built around a space-age insulator, the 39A flight jacket launched for sale at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) today (Oct. 1). The limited-edition garment features a spacesuit-inspired design, bold NASA logos and an astronaut-signed certificate of authenticity.
"The waitlist for this NASA collab is a little over 20,000 against 400 jackets. The question that's been going through my head lately is why didn't we do this earlier?" said Michael Markesbery, co-founder and CEO of OROS. "Maybe part of it is that I wanted to make sure whatever it was we created, we were doing justice to NASA and its heritage."
Like the other apparel and accessories made by OROS, the NASA 39A flight jacket is lined by the company's Solarcore, a proprietary insulation based on the silica aerogel used by NASA to control the temperature aboard its Mars rovers. Nicknamed "solid smoke," aerogel is lightweight because it is 99.8% air.
"What OROS does that no one else does is, we give you all the warmth without any of the bulk," Markesbery said in an interview with collectSPACE.com. "The way we did that is we took this NASA tech, aerogel, the lowest thermal conductive solid in existence, and used it to create an insulation to put into apparel."
Where the NASA 39A flight jacket differs from OROS' other Solarcore-lined apparel is in its design. Whereas the company's other products incorporate space technology, the 39A is the first to wear NASA on its sleeve — or rather its chest.
Named after the launch pad where the first humans lifted off for the moon, space shuttles left for Earth orbit and where SpaceX continues to launch astronauts today, OROS' NASA 39A flight jacket is emblazoned with NASA's "worm" logotype across its front and has a rear plate with the words of the first moonwalker.
"This isn't in any of the promotional material for the NASA collab, but like an easter egg, on the back of the jacket is a quote from Neil Armstrong," Markesbery said. "Someone asked Neil, 'Why would you try to do this crazy thing? Why would you try to go to the moon?' and Neil said, 'I think we're going to the moon because it's in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It's by the nature of his deep inner soul... we're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.'"
"That, for me, is a perfect example of our company mantra, 'Find your beyond,'" Markesbery said.
Astronaut Kathy Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space and, more recently, the first woman to reach the deepest point on Earth, signed the certificate of authenticity that accompanies each jacket.
"Wearing OROS and buying into the philosophy of finding your beyond means to me that you bind to this mentality that humanity has an inexhaustible will to explore and to take on challenges. I wanted someone who would represent this idea, and that is how we landed with Kathy," said Markesbery.
The OROS x NASA 39 flight jacket retails for $350 and comes in both men's and women's sizes. A portion of each sale will benefit the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, an organization founded by the original Mercury astronauts to support undergraduate college students excelling in science and technology majors. Individuals like Markesbery, who was named an Astronaut Scholar in 2014.
Given the high level of advance interest, OROS expects the 39A flight jacket to sell out quickly, possibly within just minutes of it launching for sale. [Editor's note: It did.] For the same reason, future NASA-forward designs are almost a certainty, said Markesbery.
"The NASA collab is something that doesn't go away on Oct. 1st or whenever it is that we sell out. It's a partnership that we hope lives on in perpetuity," he said.
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Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.