Sunday, July 21, 2024

NASA unveils sleeker spacesuits for a future US mission to the moon | Space news


NASA’s new spacesuits will be worn during the Artemis mission, which plans to return humans to the Moon by the late 2025.

Future US astronauts will wear sleeker, more flexible spacesuits as NASA abandons the white, bulging suits worn by Neil Armstrong and his fellow Apollo astronauts half a century ago.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Wednesday unveiled the first prototype of a newly designed, next-generation spacesuit designed specifically for the first astronauts expected to return to the lunar surface in the next few years.

The futuristic moon apparel was shown off at Johnson Space Center in Houston during an event hosted by Axiom Space for media and students. NASA has awarded the Texas-based company a $228.5 million contract to build the spacecraft. Artemis – caliph for 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 toward a final trip to Mars.

The new suits, branded as Axiom’s “Extravehicular Mobility Module” or “AXIMO” for short, are more streamlined and flexible than the old Apollo suits, with greater range of motion and versatility in size and fit.

The zip-up garment contains multiple protective layers, a backpack with life support systems as well as lights and an HD video camera mounted on top of the bubble-shaped helmet.

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“Not only will next-generation spacesuits 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 The new suits will be tested in a “space-like environment” before being used on the moon mission.

“Inside this box are all the parts and components that will keep you alive,” said Russell Ralston, deputy director of the Extravehicular Activity Program at Axiom Space, of the suit’s “portable life support system.”

“You can think of it as a very fancy scuba tank and air conditioner rolled into one,” said Ralston.

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 male and female population in the United States, according to NASA.

However, the exact appearance of the suits remained a closely guarded trade secret. The one shown on Wednesday came in a charcoal gray exterior with orange and blue dashes as well as the Axiom logo on the box — meant to disguise Axiom’s signature textile design.

The company said the suits worn by astronauts on the lunar south pole will be white because that is the color that best reflects the harsh sunlight on the lunar surface and protects the wearer from the intense heat.

The new suit has “more functionality, more performance and more capacity” than the bulky version worn by the Apollo astronauts, said Vanessa Wyche, director of the Johnson Space Center.

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“We haven’t had a new suit since the ones we designed for the space shuttle and these suits are currently in use on the space station,” said Wyche.

“So for 40 years, we’ve been using the same suit based on that technology.”

Axiom said it teamed up with costume designer Ester Marquis from the Apple TV+ series Lunar For All Mankind to create a custom skin layer using Axiom’s logo and brand colors.