Watching this gives me the chills. A cosmonaut floats away from the International space station, spinning out of control as the camera follows it, going around planet Earth for just one orbit before plunging into the atmosphere, burning and disintegrating. A terrifying scene that looks like the movie Gravity, but the video above is real—except no human was inside that suit.
It’s the macabre launch of the Suitsat, which happened on February 3, 2006:
It was the flight of the SuitSat, as former NASA intern Sam Wilkinson describes for Sploid:
The concept behind SuitSat-1 is quite simple, put some simple electronics (radio communications system, telemetry) into a Russian Orlan spacesuit, then throw it out of the airlock.
According to Frank Bauer of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, “SuitSat is a Russian brainstorm, some of our Russian partners in the ISS program … had an idea: Maybe we can turn old spacesuits into useful satellites.” Aside from broadcasting voice messages from students around the world, and some telemetry data, SuitSat-1 also looked really eerie.