Evans instrumental in spacesuit exchange

Sunday, May 14, 1989

The first flown Soviet spacesuit to be seen by the Western world is on display today at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center.

``It's a once in a lifetime chance,'' Max Ary, executive director of the Cosmosphere, said of receiving the space artifact.

The spacesuit was offically presented to Ary Saturday night at a private reception in the Hutchinson Holidome. Making the presentation were cosmonaut Georgy Grechko and Gui Saverin, head of the Soviet spacesuit development division.

Saverin said he didn't know how to present the spacesuit to the Cosmosphere since it was the first time anyone had done an American-Soviet spacesuit exchange. Because the suit was worn by Svetlana Savitskaya, the first woman to walk in space, he suggested that the suit be worn by a beautiful young lady.

Grechko, who showed his sense of humor throughout the Soviets' visit, reminded Ary to be sure that the young lady was removed before the suit was put on display this morning in the museum's Hall of Space.

In return, former astronaut Ron Evans presented the Soviets with an American spacesuit. Evans, a native of St. Francis, is the only Kansas astronaut to fly to the moon and was assigned to the backup crew for the Apollo-Soyuz mission.

Saverin said the Soviet spacesuit is a small part of Soviet history and represents the sincere feelings the Soviets have for the United States.

``I feel when cosmonauts and astronauts fly, notwithstanding nationalities, everyone in the world is thinking of their safety,'' he said.

Measures taken in the Soviet Union and in the U.S. to improve the safety systems of spacesuits can only benefit both nations, he said.

``If the technology used in this spacesuit is helpful, then we feel we've made a contribution to the American space program and we're happy to have done that ... We hope this gift will be the beginning of scientific exchange in the future.''

At a press conference earlier that day, Saverin explained the differences between American and Soviet spacesuit design concepts. The American concept was to make a universal suit that could be worn in all space and spacecraft environments, he said. For example, a backpack can be attached to the suit so it can act as a life support system during extravehicular activities.

The Soviet design concept was to construct specialized suits for different space environments, Saverin explained. A lightweight spacesuit is worn in the cabin of spacecrafts while a heavier, semi-hard suit is worn for extravehicular manuevers.

``Every year we improve the suits based on the comments of the cosmonauts,'' he said. Saverin emphasized the importance for the Soviet and American space programs to develop spacesuits that are compatible so the countries can help each other during spaceflight emergencies.

Americans were able to help the Armenians following an earthquake there last year because Soviet airports could receive airplanes made in the U.S., he said. ``If there's a problem on the shuttle and space station, no one else can help,'' he said.

Grechko echoed Saverin's sentiments about the need for cooperation between the two space programs. ``If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange those apples, we have one apple,'' he said. ``But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange them, we both have two ideas.''

In addition to the spacesuit, Grechko and Saverin presented the Cosmosphere with small replicas of the Soviet space stations and a figurine representing their desire for future joint space ventures.

The Cosmosphere presented Saverin with a flag and NASA patch worn by astronaut Jim Lovell during the Apollo 8 flight. Grechko received an acrylic trophy that contained pieces from the outer skins of the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and shuttle spacecrafts.