NASA Unveils New Spacesuits For Astronauts Returning To The Moon
NASA and Axiom Space Inc. are offering a first look at new spacesuits that will be part of the agency’s ambitious Artemis program.
(Bloomberg) -- NASA and Axiom Space Inc. are offering a first look at new spacesuits that will be part of the agency’s ambitious Artemis program to send humans back to the moon.
The new suits are designed to provide greater flexibility and protection from the harsh lunar environment, along with specialized tools to enable exploration of the moon’s surface, Axiom said Wednesday. They’re intended to accommodate a wide range of crew members.
While a spacesuit worn on the moon must be white to reflect heat and protect astronauts from extremely high temperatures, a custom cover layer was created for display purposes to conceal the suit’s proprietary design. This layer, which was created by a costume designer from the Apple TV+ space drama, will not be used on the moon or in training.
Through Artemis, NASA plans to land the first woman, the first person of color and the first astronaut from another country on the moon. The agency plans for the first landing to occur as early as 2025, but delays may push that date further. It had initially planned to return to the lunar surface by 2024.
Developing functioning lunar spacesuits has been a challenge for NASA. In 2019, the agency unveiled its first prototype spacesuit, the xEMU, that it said Artemis astronauts would wear on the moon. But an audit by NASA’s inspector general in 2021 found delays in the development of these suits, and they wouldn’t be ready until at least 2025, later than NASA planned.
In 2021, the agency decided to switch from developing its lunar suits in-house to using a contractor, a decision the US Government Accountability Office said could affect Artemis’ development timeline. In the spring of 2022, NASA selected two companies — Axiom and Collins Aerospace — to develop next-generation spacesuits for the agency, with Axiom to create the spacesuits that moon-bound astronauts will wear on Artemis III, the first planned crewed mission to touch down on the lunar surface.
NASA said the combined contracts for Axiom and Collins were worth as much as $3.5 billion.
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