HomeScienceNASA unveils new spacesuit for future moon missions

    NASA unveils new spacesuit for future moon missions

    Jim Stein, chief engineer for Axiom Space, demonstrates the prototype of the new US spacesuit in Houston, Texas, on March 15, 2023.

    It was naturally at its space center Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, a center dedicated to human spaceflight, that NASA unveiled on Wednesday, March 15, the prototype of the spacesuit that the Artemis astronauts will wear when they set foot on the moon. Designed by the private company Axiom Space, this new generation suit was presented in a charcoal gray version that masked some technical elements that Axiom Space did not want to show to its competitors. In fact, the final version will be white so as not to absorb the sun’s rays, because, while temperatures on our satellite can drop to -180°C in the craters that are indefinitely in the shade, they can also rise to more than 120 °C when facing the Sun. Compared to the suits of the Apollo missions, this new equipment appeared more flexible. On the upper part of the helmet, a lighting system and a high definition camera were integrated.

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    Designed for what, in space jargon, are known as “extravehicular activities,” ie spacewalks outside the transport vessel, the suits must ensure a constant temperature and pressure. Their tightness and robustness are crucial, because a leak can have dramatic consequences. They also have the function of supplying their occupant with oxygen and water. These vital systems are housed in the large box located in the astronaut’s back, held together by a system of hinges. When they open, a sort of trap door appears through which the astronaut slips into the suit, feet first.

    Artemis-2 and 3 missions

    At the presentation Wednesday, Johnson Space Center Director Vanessa Wyche said the US hasn’t had “any new suits since the ones (…) designed for the space shuttle and currently used on the International Space Station. So we’ve been using the same suit based on this technology for 40 years,” she said.

    At the presentation of the prototype follows on March 15.

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    The Artemis lunar program began to come to fruition in November 2022 with the first (unmanned) flight of the Space Launch System, NASA’s new heavy-lift launch vehicle, which successfully sent the Orion capsule around the Moon. This 25-day journey ended on December 11, 2022 with a water landing in the Pacific, and validated the proper operation of the rocket and Orion. The Artemis-2 mission, planned for the fall of 2024, will be established on the same pattern, but this time will carry a crew that will fly over Earth’s natural satellite.

    It is not until the Artemis-3 mission that two Americans (including most probably the first woman) will walk on the Moon again, with the suit produced by Axiom Space. For the time being, this historic flight is scheduled for December 2025. Some people, including NASA’s inspector general, Paul Martin, believe this schedule is ambitious. In an audit made public on November 15, 2021, he estimated that the Americans would not set foot on our satellite again until 2026, “at the earliest.”

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