NASA unveiled its new spacesuit for the Artemis mission which will be used on the lunar satellite when humans head back there in 2024 for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972. One of the suits is white, with red and blue sleeves in true American fashion, and will be vital for humans tasked with setting up the first Moon base as part of the Artemis – who in Greek mythology is the twin sister of Apollo – mission. The suit is called the “Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit,” or xEMU, and will be fitted with enough oxygen for astronauts to perform moonwalks for up to eight hours.
It will also be used to keep astronauts alive in the harsh Martian temperatures which is an average of -63C.
NASA chief Jim Bridenstine unveiled the new suits alongside Amy Ross, a spacesuit engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
Ms Ross said: “We’ve been working for a long time to build space suits that will do the job on the moon and going on to Mars.
“My job is to take a basketball, shape it like a human, keep them alive in a harsh environment and give them the mobility to do their job.”
xEMU is much more flexible than the previous rigid suits which astronauts have previously warned, allowing them to walk, rather than hop, across the lunar surface.
Ms Ross continued: “We have a lot more mobility in the lower torso. So you have a waist bearing and we have three bearings on the legs as well as a flexion extension joint at the waist.
“That gives the astronaut a lot of capability to move around and do whatever tasks we might need to do for science and maintenance on a planetary surface.”
Astronaut Kate Rubins who modelled the suit at the event at NASA headquarters, said: “There’s a huge difference.
“The mobility is one of the biggest things, the fact that these bearings give you that great shoulder mobility, and that’s very important.
“In addition, you can walk around in it. When we’re on ISS, the legs aren’t very useful during a spacewalk, we’re mostly just floating there.
“But obviously in the lunar environment, we’re going to need to walk around, and the more mobility you have, the more tasks you can get done, the more science you can accomplish, the farther you can go.”
The other suit, called the Orion Crew Survival System (OCSS), is bright orange and will be worn on launch and re-entry on the Orion spacecraft, which will ferry humans to the Moon and ultimately Mars.
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NASA stated the reason for picking orange is that it will make “crew members easily recognisable in the ocean should they ever need to exit Orion without the assistance of recovery personnel.”
Mr Bridenstine said: “We are going to the moon by 2024 and we want it to be sustainable.
“Ultimately the goal is this: we’re going to Mars. And in order to go to Mars, we need to use the moon as a proving ground.”
Rather than coming in a range of sizes such as small medium or large, like in previous missions, each suit will be tailor made per astronaut.
Mr Bridenstine added: “We are building spacesuits that will fit all of our astronauts.
“We want every person who dreams of going into space to be able to say to themselves, yes, they have that opportunity. That’s what we’re working on right now.”
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