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Habitability Study: Earth Orbital Space Station Reports

March 17, 2022 Archive Insight
Page with spiral binding at left edge, text, and image of human figure with interlinked circles similar to Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man

Cover of "Habitability Study, Earth Orbital Space Stations," 1968 / THF109188

In 1967, late in his storied career, industrial designer Raymond Loewy and a small team were contracted as NASA “space habitability” experts, producing a series of reports that focused on long-duration missions and the problem of how to exist as a “whole human” in outer space.

These reports acknowledged the restrictive parameters of spacecraft interiors yet stressed the ability of human-centered design to boost crew morale. They considered sleeping arrangements, modular storage, communal dining, mental decompression spaces, and entertainment in zero gravity—including a “one man theatre” helmet and a weighted “space dart” game.

Woman holds box labeled "cream of tomato soup" with plastic spout to her mouth
"Habitability Study, Earth Orbital Space Stations,” Figure 6B, page 15B / THF701089, detail from THF701085

Loewy’s plans underscored the most “human” of all space travel design problems: the intake of food and disposal of body waste. The images above and below may look quaint to us now, but it is important to note that at the time that Loewy was considering how an astronaut might eat tomato soup in space, plastic squeeze-tube packaging was still considered experimental. As for the inevitable issue of waste collection, Loewy provided several ergonomic space toilet designs, underlining bathroom privacy for crew members.

Space with arc-shaped plastic enclosure, geometric pattern on walls, and silhouette on wall of figure squatting piece of equipment or furniture
"Habitability Study, Earth Orbital Space Stations,” Figure 55, page 112 / THF701090, detail from THF701086

While not all of Loewy’s ideas were adopted, several suggestions were implemented in the Skylab space station, including the biggest astronaut perk of all—a window to gaze at the stars while floating in space.

Visit our Digital Collections to browse selected pages and images from one of Raymond Loewy’s habitability studies.


Kristen Gallerneaux is Curator of Communications and Information Technology at The Henry Ford. This post was adapted from an article in the January–May 2022 issue of The Henry Ford Magazine.

by Kristen Gallerneaux, The Henry Ford Magazine, design, space

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