Newly Unveiled Artemis Moon Suit Is a Giant Leap for NASA

Newly Unveiled Artemis Moon Suit Is a Giant Leap for NASA

Dubbed AxEMU, the next generation suit is designed to be safe, flexible, and capable of withstanding the extreme temperatures experienced at the lunar south pole, where two NASA astronauts are expected to land later this decade.

The first prototype of the next generation spacesuit was revealed during a Moon to Mars event at NASA’s Space Centre Houston on Wednesday. NASA partnered with Axiom Space to develop the first moonwalking spacesuits since Apollo, which will be worn by astronauts on the lunar surface as part of the space agency’s Artemis program.

NASA’s Associate Administrator Bob Cabana recalls looking back at the images from the Apollo mission and seeing the spacesuits “that enabled the astronauts to make those first steps on the Moon,” he said during the event. “Now we’re developing a spacesuit for a new generation, the Artemis generation, the generation that’s gonna take us back to the moon and onto Mars, and it is going to be so exciting.”

Photo: Axiom Space
Photo: Axiom Space

It’s been more than 50 years since the Apollo program, and all that time is reflected in how vastly different the new spacesuits are to the ones worn by astronauts in 1969. Aside from a more modern, sleek look, the next generation spacesuits are equipped with advanced capabilities designed to give astronauts more flexibility, comfort, and safety while exploring the lunar surface.

AxEMU, or Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit, was developed with the legacy of NASA spacesuits in mind while incorporating new technology, more mobility, and protection from the lunar environment.

Axiom engineer Jim Stein modelled the spacesuit during the event, walking on stage with the help of a staff that will likely be used for balance and exploring the lunar surface. Stein showed off the bright headlights on each side of the helmet, as well as a high-definition camera and a backpack that contains the astronauts’ life support system. He also performed some squats and lateral lunges, and bent down as though to pick something off the floor, to display the newly designed flexibility of the spacesuits.

Jim Stein modelling the spacesuit during the event. (Screenshot: NASA TV)
Jim Stein modelling the spacesuit during the event. (Screenshot: NASA TV)

Although the spacesuit prototype worn on stage during the event was dark grey, the actual spacesuits that will be worn by astronauts on the Moon will likely be all-white “to help keep astronauts safe and cool while working in the harsh environment of space,” NASA wrote on Twitter.

Indeed, the suit shown during the event featured a grey cover layer that won’t appear during actual in-space missions. Talking to reporters afterward, Russell Ralston, deputy program manager for extravehicular activity at Axiom Space, said the cover layer is used for ground testing and training, adding that it’s “like wearing a jacket,” a fabric layer that protects the inner layers of the suit. Responding to a reporter’s question, Mark Greeley, Axiom Space’s extravehicular activity program manager, admitted that the cover layer was also used to protect sensitive information. “We are in competition with Collins [Aersospace],” he said, “so there are things we haven’t revealed below the suit that are proprietary to Axiom.”

Related story: NASA Selects Collins Aerospace to Design New Spacesuits for the ISS

The new spacesuit has been a long time coming, with the current design used by NASA astronauts dating back to more than 40 years ago. In June 2022, NASA partnered up with Axiom Space to develop the next generation spacesuit to be worn by astronauts on future Artemis missions, as well as for astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS). The ones that will be worn on the ISS will serve as a testbed for the upcoming Artemis 3 mission, which will land humans on the Moon no earlier than 2025.

“It’s a huge deal to be selected to provide the lunar spacesuit for NASA’s Artemis program,” Michael Suffredini, Axiom Space president and CEO, said during the event. “We’re not just taking the nation to the Moon and beyond, we’re taking civilisation to the Moon and beyond and so we’re pleased that humanity’s next steps on the Moon are gonna be in an Axiom spacesuit.”

This is a breaking story. Check back for updates. Additional reporting by George Dvorsky.

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