NASA has launched two new space suits in anticipation of the Artemis program which is set to send its first female Astronauts and a man to the moon in 2024. The key feature of these new suits is the increased mobility it offers in every aspect, prolonging the age old legacy of the the evolving space suits since their first venture.
The two designs unveiled are specifically crafted to ease the extra vehicular activities on the lunar surface, as well as the in capsule jobs while the Astronauts orbit around the moon, and later Mars, with certain modifications.
NASA demonstrated the suit for its Astronauts in the presence of Administrator Jim Bridenstine. The suit is named ‘xEMU,’ and despite its very similar appearance to any of the old suits you can imagine, it is substantially different.
The foremost space suit used by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo missions, only allowed the space flyers to “bunny hop” on the lunar surface. The new dynamic design will now allow them actually walk on the surface with ease along with an increased range of hand movement, facilitating sample collections and equipment handling. The new gloves accompanying these suits will allow the fingers to move freely, enabling them to pick up rocks, as demonstrated at the unveiling event.
The new suit has been specifically designed to fit in a person of any size. In words of Kristine Davis, a designated Space Suit designer at NASA and the person who demonstrated xEMU, the suit can fit in anyone ranging from first percentile female to the 99th percentile male.”
On the subject of suit design, Bridenstin said;
We want every person who dreams of going into space to be able to say to themselves, that yes, they have that opportunity.
Since NASA has made its mind to initiate colonization on Moon, the new suit has admirably been designed to keep up with the extreme temperature variations observed on the North and South pole as well as Equatorial regions of the satellite. The suit is said to withstand temperature extremes between -250 and +250 degrees Fahrenheit.
NASA also spoke on how this suit is an improvement on those currently used in International Space stations. Where this suit features usable legs, the suits of Space station are mostly for protection. Further, the increased hand movement the suit offers was not present in the suits which are by far in use.
The suit is also capable of being upgraded in space itself, which means that when new technologies come in picture, the Astronauts will not be required to come back to Earth for an upgrade.
The second suit, called “Orion Crew Survival Suit,” is a much lighter version, designed only to be worn during the launch and landing, equipped with thermal and radiation protection.
Bridenstin, also spoke about the commercial partners the company is working with. He said;
What NASA has already done is invested in commercial resupply of the International Space Station […] We have invested now in commercial crew. And in the first part of next year, we’re going to once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil for the first time since the retirement of the Space Shuttles in 2011. That’s going to be a really positive development for our country, but it’s going to be commercial […] And of course, we want to see a lot of robust commercial habitats in low-Earth orbit as well. Ultimately, what that enables us to do is then take the resources that the taxpayers give us, and go to the Moon and on to Mars, always keeping an eye on commercialization even there. The goal here is to expand humanity further into space than ever before.