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The sign on the MOL suit's display case. It reads

United States Air Force's

Manned Orbiting Laboratory Program (MOL)

This Manned Orbiting Lab space suit has rarely been seen because it was produced secretly for military "space" spies to wear. In the mid-1960s, when NASA's Gemini and Apollo programs were getting all of the media attention, the U.S. Air Force was quietly developing their own manned space program. Called the Manned Orbiting Laboratory Program, or MOL, the Air Force was planning to send some of their own pilots into space in what would essentially be 30-day long spy missions.

But this space suit would never fly. The MOL program was canceled in July, 1969 -- the same month NASA's Apollo 11 crew landed on the moon. The seven Air Force astronauts training for MOL were transferred to NASA, and all would later fly Space Shuttle missions.

The suits were only recently discovered when two security officers ventured into a long-locked room at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during a routine check at a Launch Complex.


The Air Force planned for the MOL program to use a permanent Earth-orbiting space station, and send astronauts back and forth to it using a modified Gemini spacecraft. While in space, the military astronauts would conduct a variety of top-secret reconnaissance missions on various Earth targets.


To support their new astronauts, the Air Force needed a new, light-weight space suit. Mercury and Gemini space suits had become obsolete, and the suits being developed for Apollo were for a totally different purpose -- walking on the moon.

Hamilton Standard, an aircraft propeller manufacturer, who had gained great experience in the development of full-pressure garments, was contracted by the Air Force to develop the space suit. The result was a well-designed suit that demonstrated great ease of mobility.

The MOL suit's most unique design feature was a helmet neck ring that separated in the front. This allowed the front of the suit to be fully opened up, making it possible for an individual astronaut to put it on and to remove it by themselves. Normally, getting into a space suit was a two-person activity.

Time picture taken Wed Jul 30 13:02:48 2008
Location picture taken Destination Space Gallery
Science Museum Oklahoma (formerly the Omniplex)
Oklahoma City, OK
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