We are going to write about a very important person in both international and national Spanish science who had an important role in Spanish politics after the Spanish Civil War during the twentieth century. Since he was involved in many fields of work like politics, science and the military circle, he has become a very interesting character nowadays.
Emilio Herrera was one of the most important people from Grenade in the twentieth century. He was also the President of the Second Republic of Spain in exile. His contributions in science, engineering and politics could not be matched by any other in his time. He set up and advance hydrodynamic lab in Cuatro Vientos (Madrid), which had one of the most advanced wind tunnels in the 1920s and 1930s of the past century. As aviator, military man and scientific, Emilio Herrera designed and piloted many planes and other flying gadgets like zeppelins or hot air balloons. In addition, he initiated a research with support of the Second Republic Government and other international investors which was the basis of the future NASA space suit.
Emilio Herrera thought about designing a suit that allowed normal life conditions inside in low pressure air density and temperature environment. In addition, he pointed to the need that the suit had to be articulated and comfortable in use. He also dealt with the problem of the thermal isolation and communication with the command center. The solution to all of these problems was to make a suit with different material layers. One of these layers, the one in contact with the body, was made of wool. Another one was made of rubber and the last one of wire reinforced fabric. The head was protected with and aluminum helmet similar to those use in diving suits. The helmet had some radiation filters and breathing and communications systems.
The space suit proved its reliability in extreme temperature and pressure conditions in lab, keeping the temperature inside in normal human life levels. The space suit test in an ascent hot air balloon was cancelled in 1936 due to the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.
On NASA’s behalf, Neil Armstrong gave a Moon rock to Manuel Casajust, a worker in the American space agency and an Emilio Herrera’s team member. The rock, which whereabouts is now unknown, was then located in the Aeronautical Museum of Madrid. There is a curious anecdote told by Antonio García, another Emilio Herrera’s team member, which says that Emilio refused to work for the NASA, although it would imply that he could work with all the money that he would need for his research, because the space agency refused to place a Spanish flag beside the American on the Moon surface.
This post is paying tribute to one of the greatest Spanish scientists who worked for Spanish science at a time of adversity and scarcity of means.
Version in Spanish | Emilio Herrera, un español pionero en el diseño del traje espacial
Sources | El País & Yorokobu
Image | La maleta mexicana