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21 march, 2023
During an event on Wednesday, NASA revealed the new suits created by Axiom Space, which will be worn by astronauts during the Artemis III mission slated for 2025.
NASA has unveiled a new spacesuit designed for astronauts who will explore the Moon as part of the Artemis program. Created by Axiom Space, the prototype suit is designed to offer improved mobility for astronauts working on the lunar surface. It was revealed at an event on March 15th and is intended for use during the Artemis III mission, which will see the first woman and person of color walk on the Moon.
The suit features a dark gray cover, designed by costume designer Esther Marquis, but the actual suit will be white for thermal reasons. The partnership between NASA and Axiom Space is seen as critical to landing astronauts on the Moon and continuing American leadership in space. Axiom's next-generation spacesuits are expected to enable more people to explore and conduct scientific research on the Moon than ever before.
NASA astronauts have used the same basic spacesuit design for 40 years, and while it has proven successful, it has limitations in terms of mobility. The new prototype, called the Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit (AxEMU), is based on developments made by NASA for its Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) prototype. Improvements include thermal requirements to deal with the Moon's cold temperatures, as well as improved mobility and safety features.
The new suit features more joints, particularly in the lower half, to enable movements that were previously impossible. It also has a light band over the helmet bubble to improve vision, an HD video camera on the side for live-streaming astronaut POV video back to Earth, and well-insulated boots for working in cold conditions. The AxEMU is entered from the back, a departure from previous designs where astronauts entered from the bottom and then the top.
NASA has decided to break from its usual practice and will not be the owner of the spacesuits for its future missions. Instead, the agency has entered into a service agreement with Axiom Space, which will be responsible for providing the necessary hardware. Lara Kearney, the manager of NASA’s Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility program, drew a comparison between the contract and renting a car, as NASA will not be the owner of the equipment.
During the unveiling ceremony, Kearney clarified that NASA will still have control over the mission and its execution, while Axiom Space will work alongside the agency to ensure the safety of the spacesuits during lunar surface walks.
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