Astronauts on future lunar missions will wear Nasa’s newly designed next-generation spacesuit, specially tailored to prove a greater range of motion and variability in size than previous Apollo suits.
The new spacesuits were displayed at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, during an event hosted for the media and students hosted by Axiom Space, the company that designed the garments.
The suits will be worn by astronauts travelling to the Moon as part of Nasa’s Artemis programme. The new suit design is said to have cost $228.5m (£189.6m) to perfect.
Called the Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit (AxEMU), the spacesuit incorporates the latest technology, affords the wearer enhanced mobility and offers added protection from hazards on the Moon, Nasa said.
The pressurised garment has multiple protective layers; a backpack with life-support systems, and lights and a high-definition video camera mounted on top of the bubble-shaped helmet. The new suit also reportedly provides a wider range of sizes and fits for female astronauts.
The existing spacesuits had not been fully redesigned since 1981.
Nasa’s first all-female space crew was scheduled to complete a spacewalk in 2019. However, the agency realised it did not have enough spacesuits that would fit the women and was ultimately forced to replace one of the female astronauts (Anne McClain) with a male colleague (Nick Hague).
“Nasa’s partnership with Axiom is critical to landing astronauts on the Moon and continuing American leadership in space,” said Nasa administrator Bill Nelson. “Building on Nasa’s years of research and expertise, Axiom’s 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.
“Our partnership is investing in America, supporting America’s workers and demonstrating another example of America’s technical ingenuity that will position Nasa and the commercial space sector to compete – and win – in the 21st century.”
Although the designs presented showed dark-coloured suits, Nasa said the suits that will be used in space missions will be white because that is the best colour to reflect the harsh sunlight on the Moon’s surface and protect the wearer from extreme heat.
The new suits would be tested in a “space-like environment” prior to their use for a real Moon mission.
Nasa successfully launched its Artemis spacecraft last year, as part of a mission to take humans back to the Moon. The agency has also revealed its hopes of landing humans on Mars, the Red Planet, sometime in the 2030s as part of its Moon to Mars programme.
The UK is part of the Artemis programme, making contributions to the Lunar Gateway – a space station currently in development with the European Space Agency – working alongside the US, Europe, Canada and Japan. The nations have together developed the Artemis Accords, a set of principles to ensure a shared understanding of safe operations, use of space resources, minimising space debris and sharing scientific data.
Nasa hopes to have the updated suit ready for the Artemis III mission to the Moon in 2025.