Functional style: NASA unveils new space suit that astronauts will wear to the Moon in 2025
For decades, NASA astronauts have used the same fundamental spacesuit design and the same technology. For 2025's Artemis III mission to the Moon, astronauts will be using a new space suit with lots of new tech, that has been developed by Axiom Space.
The new spacesuit that astronauts will use to investigate the Moon as part of the Artemis mission has been unveiled by NASA. The new suit, developed by Axiom Space, is intended to enhance explorers’ movement while they work on the lunar surface.
The prototype suit was unveiled at an event on March 15th. It was created for the Artemis III expedition, which will see the first woman and a person of colour step on the Moon. Esther Marquis, a costume artist who worked on the television series For All Mankind, created a dark grey cover for the prototype, but the real outfit will be white for thermal purposes.
Sprucing up for a new suit
“NASA’s collaboration with Axiom is essential for the successful arrival of humans on the Moon and the maintenance of American dominance in space. Building on NASA’s years of research and expertise, Axiom’s next-generation spacesuits will not only enable the first woman to walk on the Moon, but they will also open opportunities for more people to explore and conduct science on the Moon than ever before,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.
Also read: Explained: Why Artemis may be the last mission for NASA astronauts
Since the Space Shuttle era, NASA astronauts have worn the same fundamental spacesuit design, with the technology basically staying the same. The ancient suit design has stood the test of time, but it is very restrictive in terms of the amount of mobility it permits.
Why was a new suit required?
A new outfit was required to allow humans to move, turn, and kneel easily. This is crucial when operating in a low-gravity environment, such as the Moon, as opposed to the microgravity environment of the International Space Station.
The Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or AxEMU, is the name of the new suit prototype, which is modelled in part on NASA’s Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) prototype. The emphasis of the advances was on issues like better mobility and safety requirements, as well as thermal requirements to deal with the cold temps found on the Moon’s south pole.
Also read: Why is NASA going back to the Moon 50 years after Apollo mission?
The new helmet has elements like an HD video camera on the side so passenger POV video can be live streamed back to Earth and a light band over the helmet bubble to improve visibility. Another area that required extra insulation to allow astronauts to operate in the frigid conditions of perpetually shadowed areas of the Moon were their footwear. The cosmonaut enters the AxEMU from the rear rather than the bottom and top as they did with the previous suit design, which is another significant change from the previous suit.
Some economical decisions
Unlike in the past, NASA will have a service agreement with Axiom Space to provide the gear rather than owning the spacesuits themselves. The deal is similar to borrowing a vehicle as opposed to buying one, according to Lara Kearney, head of NASA’s Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility program.
Also read: Blue Origin sues NASA over decision to award Artemis moon lander contract to SpaceX
“NASA will be in the role still of mission control and making the mission execution decisions, but Axiom is going to be right there with us, making sure that suit is safe as we have our astronauts walking on the surface of the Moon,” Kearney explained during the reveal event.
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