Human WorldSpaceflight

New NASA moon suit makes its debut

The NASA moon suit was unveiled during an event at Space Center Houston in Texas on Wednesday.

After a series of delays, the uncrewed Artemis 1 mission – our first step in a future return to the moon – launched on November 16, 2022. The second of three Artemis missions – a crewed mission this time, Artemis 2 – is still scheduled to launch in November of 2024 and to send three astronauts on a journey around the moon. But all eyes are beginning to turn toward the real crux of the three Artemis missions, the third mission, which will send humans back to the moon’s surface, perhaps as early as December 2025. That mission will feature the first crewed lunar landing since Apollo 17 in December 1972. And yesterday – March 15, 2023 – NASA unveiled the new moon suit that’ll be worn by the astronauts on the moon.

Those astronauts will be bound for the moon’s South Pole.

Axiom Space, an independent space contractor located in Houston, Texas, made the new suits. They showed off their first prototype Wednesday during an event at Space Center Houston in Texas.

New NASA moon suit: Dark-colored space suit, upright, with no one inside.
Meet the new Artemis 3 spacesuit prototype, the AxEMU. Though this prototype uses a dark gray cover material, the final version will likely be all-white when worn by NASA astronauts on the moon’s surface. NASA said the suit will keep the astronauts safe and cool, while working on the moon’s surface, a few years from now. Image via Axiom Space/ NASA.

The new NASA moon suit

When NASA sends the first astronauts back to the moon in mid-decade, moonwalkers will wear the Axiom Space spacesuits. NASA selected the company to develop the modern suits for the Artemis 3 mission and participated in activities when the first prototype was revealed Wednesday during an event at Space Center Houston in Texas. NASA said:

Called the Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or AxEMU, the spacesuit builds on NASA’s spacesuit prototype developments and incorporates the latest technology, enhanced mobility, and added protection from hazards at the moon.

NASA said that AxEMU incorporates the name Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) and that the prototype development is aimed toward advanced spacesuit designs for multiple space destinations. NASA said:

Axiom Space used the experience, expertise, and data behind the xEMU as a basis for the design and development of the AxEMU, including advancements in technology, training, astronaut feedback on comfort and maneuverability, and compatibility with other NASA systems. Leaning on NASA’s prior development efforts is helping Axiom Space reduce technical and schedule risk.

NASA experts defined the technical and safety standards by which the spacesuits will be built, and Axiom Space agreed to meet these key agency requirements. The AxEMU features the range of motion and flexibility needed to explore more of the lunar landscape, and the suit will fit a broad range of crew members, accommodating at least 90 percent of the US male and female population.

Axiom Space will continue to apply modern technological innovations in life support systems, pressure garments, and avionics as development continues.

Next, testing phase

NASA said that Axiom Space is responsible not only for the design, development, qualification, certification, and production of flight training spacesuits and support equipment, including tools … but also for testing the suit in a spacelike environment. There’s more about that environment – an underwater tank called the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, at Johnson Space Center in Houston – in the video above.

And NASA pointed out that our return to the moon, this time, isn’t seen as a one-shot undertaking. Instead, it’s seen as the first of a series of steps that’ll carry astronauts deeper into the solar system:

Through Artemis, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the moon, paving the way for a long-term, sustainable lunar presence to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before and prepare for future astronaut missions to Mars.

Astronaut in a white spacesuit training underwater.
An astronaut training in the old spacesuit, in NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at Johnson Space Center Houston. Image via NASA/ Wikimedia Commons.

Bottom line: Working with the Houston-based company Axiom Space, NASA unveiled a prototype of its new moon suit on March 15, 2023.

March 16, 2023
Human World

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Deborah Byrd

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