NASA and Axiom Unveil Next-Generation Spacesuits for Artemis Moon Missions
The bulky, white spacesuits which were donned by Neil Armstrong and his fellow Apollo astronauts over fifty years ago have become outdated. Modern lunar attire now requires a more streamlined and comfortable design suitable for both male and female astronauts.
On Wednesday, NASA revealed the initial model of a freshly crafted, state-of-the-art spacesuit, custom-made with careful attention to detail and practicality, intended for the first batch of astronauts anticipated to embark on the upcoming moon mission in the next few years.
The Johnson Space Center in Houston recently hosted an event for media and students, showcasing the latest developments in lunar wear. Axiom Space, a Texas-based company contracted by NASA to manufacture spacesuits for Artemis, the successor to the Apollo moon program, presented the cutting-edge technology.
In December, NASA's Orion spacecraft and its next-generation rocket were launched on an uncrewed test flight around the moon and back, marking the successful completion of the Artemis 1 mission. The space agencies of the United States and Canada are expected to announce the four astronauts selected for Artemis 2 as early as next year, which will be another out-and-back mission.
If successful, Artemis 2 will set the stage for the first-ever Artemis 3 astronaut expedition to the lunar surface, which is planned for later in the decade and will be the first mission to the moon's south pole. Notably, it will also mark the first time a woman walks on the moon.
NASA has pledged to ensure that future Artemis missions will feature the first individual of colour to step foot on the moon. The Artemis program, named after Apollo's twin sister from Greek mythology, has a long-term objective of establishing a sustainable lunar base as a critical stage in human exploration of Mars.
Bill Nelson, the head of NASA, expressed confidence that the new spacesuits would create opportunities for more people than ever before to investigate and conduct scientific research on the moon.
Axiom has given the new spacesuits the name "Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit" or "AxEMU" for short. These suits have been engineered to be sleeker, more flexible, and comfortable compared to the older Apollo spacesuits, with a wider range of motion and increased variability in size and fitting.
NASA has stated that the AxEMU suits have been designed to accommodate a diverse range of potential users, with a fitting range of at least 90% for both male and female populations in the US. In addition, these new spacesuits integrate advanced features in life-support systems, pressure garments, and avionics.
The exact appearance of the AxEMU spacesuits has been kept confidential by Axiom. However, the displayed prototype showcased an outer layer coloured in charcoal gray, with hints of blue and orange accents, and the Axiom logo on the chest. This design is intended to conceal the company's exclusive outer fabric pattern.
Axiom has confirmed that the suits to be used by astronauts on the lunar south pole mission will be white. This is because white reflects harsh sunlight on the moon's surface, providing protection to the wearer from extreme heat.