NASA is giving up the puffy white suits used by Neil Armstrong and his fellow Apollo astronauts half a century ago, so future moonwalking US astronauts will have sleeker, more flexible spacesuits.
The prototype of a brand-new, next-generation spacesuit, specially made and equipped for the first astronauts anticipated to return to the Moon’s surface in the coming years, was unveiled by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States on Wednesday.
At a media and student event held by Axiom Space, the futuristic moon-wear was on exhibit at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
NASA granted the Texas-based business a $228.5 million contract to produce the Artemis spacecraft’s suits. Artemis is NASA’s follow-on Moon program to Apollo.
In late 2025, the Artemis program intends to send people back to the Moon for the first time since the legendary Apollo missions came to an end in 1972. This will be the first step on the way to a possible trip to Mars.
The new suits, dubbed “Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit” or simply “AxEMU” by Axiom, are more streamlined and flexible than the previous Apollo suits, offering a wider range of motion and better size and fit flexibility.
A high-definition video camera mounted on top of the bubble-shaped helmet, a backpack with life-support equipment and lighting, and many protective layers is all part of the pressurized garment.
NASA’a administrator, Bill Nelson said, The “next generation spacesuits will not only enable the first woman to walk on the Moon but they will also open opportunities for more people to explore and conduct science on the Moon than ever before.”
The new suits will undergo testing in a “spacelike environment” before being used for the Moon mission, according to a statement from NASA.
Deputy program manager for extravehicular activity at Axiom Space, Russell Ralston, said of the suit’s “portable life support system,” “Inside of this box are all the parts and the components to keep you alive.
“You can think of it as like a very fancy scuba tank and air conditioner kind of combined into one.”
According to NASA, the new suits, which can be worn for up to eight hours at a time, will fit a wide range of users and can accommodate at least 90% of both the male and female populations of the US.
But the exact design of the costumes remained a well-kept trade secret. To conceal Axiom’s patented outer fabric design, those on exhibit on Wednesday had an exterior layer that was charcoal grey with splotches of orange and blue as well as the company’s emblem on the breast.
The company stated that white suits will be worn by astronauts on the lunar south pole as it is the best color to reflect the intense sunshine on the Moon’s surface and shield the wearer from intense heat.
The new suit, according to director of the Johnson Space Center Vanessa Wyche, “has more functionality, more performance, more capability” than the bulky one used by Apollo astronauts.
Wyche said; “We have not had a new suit since the suits that we designed for the space shuttle and those suits are currently in use on the space station.
“So for 40 years, we’ve been using the same suit based on that technology.”
For the bespoke cover layer, Axiom said it worked with the costume designer, Ester Marquis from the Apple TV+ lunar series For All Mankind, using the company’s emblem and brand colors.