This NASA astronaut wears a very special spacesuit

NASA still has its familiar, standard-issued white spacesuit, but some childhood cancer patients in Texas recently hand-painted a flight suit. Even better, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station is wearing it.

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins wore the multicolored suit that the agency calls “Courage” during a 20-minute chat September 16 with patients from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

After fielding questions about what it’s like to become an astronaut, Rubins thanked her suit’s designers. “You guys are artists. You guys are awesome. And you guys are inspiring to me,” said Rubins, who has a degree in cancer biology.

In May, on National Astronaut Day, Rubins and retired NASA astronaut Nicole Stott went to the Cancer Center to help decorate the suit.

“It was so much fun,” Stott said in a three-minute video posted by the Cancer Center. The astronauts and cancer patients got a chance to know one another while working on the flight suit “and talk about cool stuff at NASA” and what they want to do in the future, she said.

Ian Cion of the Cancer Center said he has been involved with several projects, but this one was particularly moving. “To be able to walk into a person’s room who is in the intensive care unit and say to them, ‘This is a flight suit and we are going to send it by rocket to the International Space Station and we’d like you to add your artwork to it’ — that enthusiasm, that excitement, that sense of wonder, for our patients and their families, has been tremendous,” he said.

Three hand-painted suits have been created through the project, which NASA says is designed to raise awareness about the benefits of pairing art with medicine.

This article draws on reports from the Associated Press.