Portable Life Support System waist strap used during two Apollo 12 EVAs
Alan Bean’s flown Portable Life Support System waist strap used on the lunar surface during the Apollo 12 mission. The main off-white Beta cloth strap measures 14.25 x 3.25, and features an ID label sewn into wider end, annotated in black ink, “A. B.—R.”; the wide end conceals a metal clap and buckle, with the opposite side ending in a clasp bearing part numbers, “SV783617-2 S/N 182.” Running across the center is a brown nylon cinching strap, 9 x 1.25, with one looped end and the other sewn and feeding into a covered metal ratchet buckle. The top portion of the main strap additionally features the female half of a snap button, a protective snap-button sheath for the concealed ratchet buckle, and a small vertical snap-button strap. This strap contains traces of lunar dust. In very good to fine condition, with expected wear from use. Accompanied by a handwritten and flight-certified letter of provenance from Bean, in part: “I hereby certify that this waist strap held the lower right end of my portable Life Support System backpack to my suit, as I walked, and ran, and worked on the Ocean of Storms…This was a critical component, because it held the PLSS snug against my space suit so there would be no unnecessary strain on the hoses or suit hose connectors during my moonwalks.”
As the lunar module pilot of Apollo 12, Bean used this Portable Life Support System (PLSS) strap during two Extra Vehicular Activities while exploring the expansive Ocean of Storms, the largest dark spot of the moon. On November 19 and 20, Bean and Commander Charles Conrad amassed a total of seven hours and forty-five minutes worth of lunar survey, an undertaking made capable by the PLSS. Weighing approximately 80 lbs on Earth (14 lbs on the moon), the modified backpack served a fully functioning astronaut survival kit with multiple functions, including: regulating suit pressure, oxygen, carbon dioxide removal, humidity, odor and other contaminants, cooling and recirculating water, sensing and reporting suit parameters, and providing communications for the astronaut. Each strap on the PLSS was designed to end with a latching clip, with shoulder straps connected to a ring assembly on the upper chest of the suit, and the lower straps, such as this very item, which were relied on to maintain the pack’s lateral stability, were connected to rings just above each hip. Augmented by provenance direct from history’s fourth moonwalker, this PLSS strap exists as a crucial lunar-flown piece of Apollo history.