NASA’s new spacesuits will be worn during the Artemis mission, which plans to return humans to the Moon in late 2025.
The United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Wednesday unveiled the first prototype for a newly designed next-generation space suit, specially tailored and adapted for the first astronauts expected to venture back to the surface of the Moon in the next few years.
The future lunar suit was displayed at the Johnson Space Center in Houston during an event hosted by Axiom Space for media and students. NASA awarded the Texas-based company a $228.5 million contract. to build suits for Artemis – the successor to the Apollo Moon program.
The Artemis program aims to return humans to the Moon in late 2025 for the first time since the historic Apollo missions ended in 1972, an initial step towards an eventual journey to Mars.
The new suits, branded by Axiom as the “Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit” or AxEMU for short, are more streamlined and flexible than the old Apollo suits, with a greater range of motion and variety in size and fit.
The pressurized garment has multiple protective layers, a backpack with life support systems, as well as lights and a high-definition video camera mounted on top of the bubble-shaped helmet.
The next generation space suit. @NASA chose @Axiom_Space to develop the suits for the Artemis III mission to the lunar surface. The first prototype was unveiled today during an event at Space Center Houston in Texas. https://t.co/qW96kLYIxl pic.twitter.com/icFDxv60IU
— NASA’s Johnson Space Center (@NASA_Johnson) 15 March 2023
“Next-generation spacesuits will not only enable the first woman to walk on the Moon, but they will also open up opportunities for more people to explore and conduct science on the Moon than ever before,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
NASA said in a statement that the new suits would be tested in a “space-like environment” ahead of their use for the lunar mission.
“Inside this box are all the parts and components to keep you alive,” Russell Ralston, vice program manager for extravehicular activity at Axiom Space, said of the suit’s “portable life support system.”
“You can think of it as a very fancy scuba tank and air conditioner kind of combined into one,” Ralston said.
Designed to be worn for up to eight hours at a time, the new suits will fit a wide range of potential wearers and accommodate at least 90 percent of the U.S. male and female population, NASA said.
However, the exact appearance of the suits remained a closely guarded trade secret. The ones on display Wednesday came with an outer layer that was charcoal gray with streaks of orange and blue and Axiom’s logo on the chest — meant to hide Axiom’s proprietary outer fabric design.
The company said the suits to be worn on the moon’s south pole by astronauts will be white because it is the best color to reflect the harsh sunlight on the moon’s surface and protect the wearer from extreme heat.
Vanessa Wyche, the director of the Johnson Space Center, said the new suit has “more functionality, more performance, more capacity” than the bulky version worn by Apollo astronauts.
“We haven’t 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,” Wyche said.
“So for 40 years we’ve been using the same suit based on that technology.”
Artemis III will land Americans on the surface of the Moon for the first time in over 50 years.
Thanks to the expert teams at NASA, Axiom and industry for your hard work. It was an exciting event.
Watch the broadcast here: https://t.co/y81jrADDV4#GiantLeapsStartHere pic.twitter.com/tJtJZEXG72
— Vanessa Wyche (@v_wyche) 15 March 2023
Axiom said it collaborated with costume designer Ester Marquis of the Apple TV+ moon series For All Mankind to create the custom cover layer using Axiom’s logo and brand colors.