NASA's O & C Building, Astronaut Suit-Up Room Changing With the Times

The O & C building was where the astronauts prepared for their missions is, much like the shuttles themselves, being decommissioned. Photo Credit: Julian Leek / Blue Sawtooth Studios

Located of the third floor of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center’s (KSC) Operation & Check Building (more commonly known as the O&C building) lies the astronaut living quarters. The facility is familiar to the general public as the building the astronauts depart from waving, dressed in their orange flight suits on their way to the launch pad.  This historic structure is scheduled to be remodeled for future uses.

This area is restricted and requires a key-controlled override on the elevator to gain access, ensuring that the astronauts had privacy while they were in residence. This home-away-from-home is equipped to take care of their everyday needs. Both personal needs and mission requirements were managed in the days leading to launch in this building.

 

One of the most famous rooms in the O & C building is the room where the astronauts suited up before their missions. Photo Credit: Julian Leek / Blue Sawtooth Studios

On launch day the astronaut crew moved into the suit-up room, where technicians would make sure that the crew was properly suited up and ready to begin their mission. This room has been used for every manned mission since the Apollo days.

The bulky, bright-orange Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES) utilized by shuttle crews helped to protect astronauts during lift-off and landing. These iconic flight suits were placed on the table next to the oversized recliner chairs. A suit tech would then assist each crew member throughout every step of suit up right down to locking the helmet in place and pressure testing. The helmets were then removed until the astronaut was seated in the shuttle.

The crew of STS-135 were the last astronauts during the space shuttle era to reside in the O & C building. Photo Credit: Julian Leek / Blue Sawtooth Studios

Once the suit was tested and deemed ready, the astronauts would take the ceremonial walk to the elevator, down the corridor and out the O & C building’s double doors. Waiting for them were members of the press, NASA workers and other officials involved with the space program. After a brief pause in front of the astrovan for photographs the crew was then escorted out to Launch Complex 39.

Just like the fleet of shuttles that it once supported, the astronaut suit-up room is beginning the process of being decommissioned. It is not known what this room will look like when the U.S. once again regains the ability to launch astronauts to orbit.  Given that the type of spacecraft that will be used will be very different from the shuttle. The capsule-based design will have different procedures and equipment – and thus different requirements.

It could be some time, perhaps a decade or longer before astronauts depart the O & C building for missions into space. Photo Credit: Julian Leek / Blue Sawtooth Studios

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  • Lola Morrow

    The O&C builing was know as the MSO (Manned Spacecraft Building during Mecury, Gemini& Skylab. I worked next to the suit room in the astronaut office as their secretary aka as their Den Mother..1962 t0 1969. Started ou with the 7 and ended up with 65 astronauts. FYI they dislike the word astronauts and prefered to be called “the guys” Still hear now and then from some of them Gene and Neil etc. FYI