NASA has unveiled the new space suit astronauts will wear to explore the moon as part of the Artemis program. Created by Axiom Space, the new suit is designed to improve the mobility of astronauts working on the lunar surface.
Developed for the Artemis III mission, which will see the first woman and person of color walk on the moon, the prototype suit was unveiled at an event on Wednesday, March 15. The prototype includes a dark gray cover designed by costume designer Esther Marquis, who worked on the TV series For all humanitybut the actual suit will be white for thermal reasons.
The prototype includes a dark gray cover designed by costume designer Esther Marquis, who worked on the TV series For all humanity
“NASA’s partnership with Axiom is critical to landing astronauts on the moon and continuing America’s leadership 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 up opportunities for more people to explore the moon and do science than ever before ahead of time,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.
NASA astronauts have used the same basic spacesuit design since the days of the Space Shuttle, with the technology essentially unchanged for 40 years. While the old suit design has proven itself in this day and age, it is extremely limited in terms of the range of motion it allows.
To allow astronauts to walk, bend and crouch comfortably — which is especially important when working on a low-gravity environment like the moon as opposed to the microgravity environment of the International Space Station — a new suit was needed.
The new suit prototype — called the Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or AxEMU — is based on some of the developments NASA made for the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) prototype. The focus of the developments has been on issues such as thermal requirements to handle the cold temperatures at the moon’s south pole, as well as improved mobility and safety requirements.
At the reveal event, Jim Stein, chief engineer at Axiom Space, wore the suit and demonstrated his ability to twist, bend, crouch, and crouch while wearing it. The new design has more joints, particularly in the lower half, allowing for movements that would be impossible in the older design. This will make it easier for astronauts to perform tasks such as walking and picking things up off the ground in the lunar environment.
The new helmet has features such as a band of light across the helmet dome for better visibility and a side HD video camera so that POV video of astronauts can be streamed live to Earth. The boots were another area that needed to be particularly well insulated to allow astronauts to work in the cold conditions of permanently shadowed areas of the moon. Another major difference from the previous suit design is that the astronaut enters the AxEMU from behind instead of going from bottom to top as before.
In order for astronauts to walk, bend and crouch comfortably, a new suit was needed
In a departure from previous conventions, NASA will not own the spacesuits itself, but will instead have a service contract with Axiom Space to provide the hardware. Lara Kearney, manager of NASA’s Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility program, likened the contract to renting a car rather than owning it.
“NASA will still be in the mission control role and make the mission execution decisions, but Axiom will be there with us to make sure that suit is safe as our astronauts walk on the surface of the moon,” Kearney said. explained during the reveal event.