Science

NASA unveils two new spacesuit prototypes for Moon to Mars exploration

NASA unveils two new spacesuit prototypes for Moon to Mars exploration”

NASA revealed the new looks on Tuesday, an upgrade to the classic suits worn by Apollo-era astronauts in the 1960s and 70s.

NASA unveiled two new spacesuits designed for the space agency's Artemis moon mission to take Americans back to the moon by 2024.

The Orion Crew Survival System, a bright orange pressure suit, is the second suit that NASA launched.

The Apollo moon suit, known as the Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or EMU, was famously so restricted that some astronauts preferred to "bunny hop", taking advantage of the moon's low gravity to lope over the surface. The space agency hopes that these missions will lay the necessary groundwork for future manned missions to Mars.

The suits improve on the technology used in the Apollo suits as well as those now used by astronauts on the International Space Station.

The new Moon suit, which is known formally as the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), is created to give the wearer a customised fit whatever their size.

Customization also means a better fit for astronauts.

Due to ill-fitting spacesuits on the ISS, astronaut Anne McCain was unable to be a part of the first all-woman spacewalk. It offers more flexibility than previous designs, allowing astronauts to reach overhead, across their bodies, and letting them twist at the waist - movements that previous suits couldn't perform. "Well now we're actually going to be able to walk on the surface of the moon, which is very different than our suits in the past".

But NASA said Tuesday it is going to try again for an all-female spacewalk on October 21, this time with Koch and fellow astronaut Jessica Meir.

Both suits can also accommodate a broader range of sizes compared to the current range of suits aboard the International Space Station.

The Artemis program will rely on SLS boosters and Orion capsules to carry astronauts to to lunar orbit where they will dock with a small space station known as Gateway. For example, ahead of the Apollo 11 moon landing, engineers anxious that the moon dust wouldn't be stable enough to support the lunar lander or even astronauts walking on it. One example given was in the event that a spacecraft suddenly depressurises, allowing the astronaut to stabilise for up to six days.

The suits are the result of years of research and redesign into suit usability.

Called xEMU, these new suits are free-size, capable of fitting anyone from "the first percentile female to the 99th percentile male", according to Amy Ross, a space suit designer present at the demonstration.

To that end, the suited models demonstrated bending, squatting and walking around in the bulky garments.

The primary objective of the suit is to protect astronauts against an accidental depressurisation, where the air pressure is lost from the inside of the spacecraft while it is travelling in a vacuum or near-vacuum.



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