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Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo Paperback – March 18, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 380 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (March 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 026201520X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262015202
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

The most delightful and memorable new book I read last year...
– Adam Gopnik, THE NEW YORKER.COM

The density of ideas and connections is intoxicating. De Monchaux swings masterfully between subjects, teasing out unexpected connections and spotting the seeds of contemporary life that were planted by the space race.
ICON (UK)


[a] wonderful material history...
LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS


... a broad and creative appraisal of [the] suit's many contexts, encouraging readers to consider technology as design, shaped by the circumstances of its time, unfailingly and elegantly layered and crafted to serve a purpose.
NATURE


... now the definitive investigation of this terrain.
THE ATLANTIC.COM


"Berkeley architecture professor de Monchaux's thorough and artful history of the American spacesuit takes readers at a leisurely pace through the past...a wholly absorbing capsule of our history. "
-
PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY, Starred Review

Woven, as befits its topic, with multiple and colored threads borrowed from an astounding variety of fields and domains--technology, politics, media, and fashion design, to name only a few--this path-breaking book provides an innovative reading of the space race. Above all, it illuminates the relevance of this race for designers from yesterday and today.
ANTOINE PICON, Travelstead Professor of the History of Architecture and Technology, Harvard Graduate School of Design


…This surely is one of the most deeply researched books on design ever written.
RALPH CAPLAN, author of _By Design: Why There Are No Locks on the Bathroom Doors in the Hotel Louis XIV and Other Object Lessons


de Monchaux offers in this remarkable book a far-reaching and broad-based analysis of the spacesuit, interpreting it as far more than a functional garment protecting astronauts but also as an artifact at the nexus of society, science, and spacefaring...
ROGER LAUNIUS, Senior Curator, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

About the Author

Nicholas de Monchaux is Assistant Professor of Architecture at the College of Environmental Design, University of California, Berkeley. His work has appeared in the architectural journal Log, the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, Architectural Design, and other publications.

Customer Reviews

I found it to be very informative and scientific.
jiggyfish
This book is of great quality, and it gives you a full story of the development and manufacturing of the apollo space suits.
Boogaerts Erwin
I was absolutley disappointed in the size of the type font, making it impossible to read even with my reading glasses.
Dennis Frantzen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Fairleigh Brooks on April 25, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a certified space cadet I have read dozens of books about the history of space exploration and manned space flight, many more on aviation and astronomy. (I own a book, for example, called "Eject! The Complete History of U.S. Aircraft Escape Systems. Actually, it's pretty interesting.)

Virtually all of these books, excepting Mailer's "Of a Fire on the Moon," of course, were written by the anointed for the choir. They focus narrowly, or not too broadly, anyway, on a specific subject and the straightforward tangents of that subject. Michael de Monchaux's "Spacesuit - Fashioning Apollo" was not written for this audience, and the difference is compelling and fascinating. De Monchaux is Assistant Professor of Architecture at the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley.

Put succinctly, "Spacesuit - Fashioning Apollo" is the history of the spacesuit as a technology, specifically the Apollo spacesuit. To anyone who has explored the history of any technology - the photocopier, cell phone towers, bar codes, VCRs, etc., etc. - the gist that emerges quickly and throughout is how far back in time are the beginnings, and how divergent are the seminal paths that eventually merge to create this new thing. The beginnings of the Apollo spacesuit reach back to a Russian Jewish immigrant born in 1901, Abram Spanel. Spanel started the International Latex Corporation (ILC), better known as Playtex. Yep, the spacesuits that allowed moon-walking astronauts to survive were made by master seamstresses who had once made bras and girdles. Just imagine how this went over with the fighter jock personalities at NASA.

But moreover, this book is a cultural treatise about clothing the human body. NASA basically did not want the suit ILC proposed, which was an actual garment.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Dave English VINE VOICE on April 1, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A beautiful bountiful book. This is a high quality look at the design (and what that design means to us in other contexts) of the Apollo spacesuit. It covers a lot of ground, engineered as the suits were, with handcrafted layers that perform many different yet interrelated functions. So we have chapters on the actual construction of the suit, and chapters on cities and simulation and JFK. It's sometimes wordy, is not afraid of big concepts, but it is always lively. A flexible mix of human and technical interactions. The point is that unlike most of the other systems that got us to the moon, a space suit is best fashioned to the evolved biological complexity of the human body, a second skin, rather than an engineered off-the-shelf hard shell.

We are treated to a smart romp that deftly combines fashion, politics, ergonomics, space travel, architecture, history, corporate culture and an iconic journey to the brave new frontier. There are lots of books on the Apollo moon missions, but however many you have this will be a unique addition to the understanding of how we got to make that first step on another world. Wonderfully illustrated, fully referenced. I hope you find this review helpful.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By David A. Senechal on April 2, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Physically, "Fashioning Apollo" is quite an elegant book (even though it is soft-bound with a "rubberized" dust cover). Text and photos are all of superb quality, glossy throughout; and it has a nice smell to it (something you'll never get from a Kindle).

If you're looking for a nuts and bolts technical book, this isn't the book for you. There are several other excellent texts that fit that bill. This is more of a series of essays on a variety of subjects, not always directly related to the spacesuit, but somehow always returning. In some ways, it reminds me of "Of a Fire on the Moon" by Normal Mailer - more of a "feeling" than simply straight reportage.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but overall, I think it's a great book. It takes a variety of historical viewpoints, ranging from Dior fashions, to the detonation of the first hydrogen bomb, to the shocking state of JFK's health, to the fact that Wylie Post's eyepatch helped warm the icy oxygen that was pumped into his first altitude suit, and manages to pull them all together into a very well-written book.

Any shortcomings would be related to its intended audience: it doesn't seem "technical" enough to satisfy the space-geek-types, but there is not a huge pool of 'non-geeks' who are likely to be interested in this sort of thing. Having said that, "Fashioning Apollo" appears to have been well-researched, Mr. de Manchaux is obviously an accomplished writer, and I highly recommend this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Alexander Norelli on April 14, 2011
Format: Paperback
Spacesuit, Fashioning Apollo explores the archaeology of its namesake, the surprisingly long history of its development rooted back as far as humans began entering altitudinous realms. Romancing new limits in the thinning air, proto-astronauts melded technology with humanity to create a means of entering higher atmospheres...on their way to none at all. The hard-won laurels left many casualties on the way to "higher" understanding. Part of this book, however, is the expression of history not as a single road leading to a distinct end (as so much seems in retrospect), but rather an ongoing act of utilized invention in pursuit of celestial goals. Spacesuit feels more like an archaeological examination of the strata of Apollo as opposed to the dramatized narrative retold so often. This book reveals new layers beneath the iconic appearances of our star-voyagers, and serves as an ode to managed complexity over blind simplification.

The literal layering of this history in 21 "layers", instead of chapters--same as the Apollo suit--works as an astute metaphor for the accrued acumen embodied in the technology that makes "great leaps" possible. By appropriating advanced materials and coupling them with an innovated sense of design, the International Latex Company (Playtex) was able to create a "soft suit" in blatant opposition to the stoic Saturn V rockets. Whereas some insisted the vacuum of space must be met with the solid shell of a "hard suit", Playtex's layered "soft" approach, derived from undergarment design, won out. And it was in the manufacturing of the suits--custom tailored for each astronaut-- that some of the only women involved in the Space-Race took part, a more subtle touch needed to sew the 64 stiches per inch required for the suit's viability.
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