British astronaut, Helen Sharman's Sokol spacesuit made by Zvezda. Sharman wore this rescue suit during the space flight on board the SOYUZ-TM-12 and MIR spacecraft in May 1991. Space suit model number KV-2 No. 167.
Sokol-KV-2 rescue suit worn by Helen Sharman during the Juno mission to the Mir space station, 1991
Helen Sharman was the first British person in space. Sharman wore this suit for two hours on the ground to check its fit. Lying back, she tried to read but her arms ached from holding the book for so long. Despite the suit’s cooling systems she sweated 2 litres during the mission launch. Once she could remove the suit, she dried it thoroughly to ensure it would not go mouldy.
The Sokol suit was developed after three unsuited cosmonauts asphyxiated on the Soyuz 11 mission in 1971 when their descent module depressurised during the return to Earth. Every cosmonaut now wears one during launch and return from space. It will keep the wearer alive for a number of hours in the event of a cabin depressurisation. Each suit is tailor made to the individual cosmonaut and comprises an inner, airtight ‘bladder’ of rubberised plastic and an outer layer of nylon canvas. There are connecting rings on the lower abdomen for air (cooling) and oxygen supplies and a centrally positioned pressure adjustment valve control on the chest; the pressure gauge is on the left wrist. The helmet and boots are integral with the rest of the suit; the gloves are attached with anodized aluminium bayonet fixings. Today’s Sokol design is little changed from the original.