by Adria Mirabelli
NASA presented its newly designed next-generation spacesuit on March 15th at Johnson Space Centre in Houston to a select group of publications and students.
The new design offers better-fitted options for women and will be worn during the Artemis II mission to the moon.
Axiom Space was hired by NASA to design the new spacesuit which they have named the “Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit” or AxEMU.
Said to be more streamlined, flexible and comfortable than previous versions of the spacesuit, it will feature better-fitted options for women as well as improved technology and safety features.
NASA have stated that the improved design will accommodate sizing for over 90% of the US male and female population.
The unveiled prototype was shown in a dark charcoal grey with accents of orange and blue, but will ultimately be produced in white for the mission. White plays a key role because it better reflects sunlight and protects the wearer from extreme temperatures. However, as Axiom wanted to hide certain details of their new spacesuit from the public, they presented the prototype with a grey exterior shell.
This outer cover was designed by costume designer Esther Marquis - who previously worked on the space-focused Apple+ series, For all Mankind.
Astronauts will be wearing the new design on the Artemis III mission which will be taking place in 2025. This mission will be composed of four people, including the first-ever female astronaut, all of which are due to travel to the moon.
NASA have also confirmed that the mission following Artemis III will also have the first person of colour to land on the moon. Inclusion is a key aspect of this situation as they aim to have astronauts living and working on the lunar surface by the end of the next decade, with Artemis III being one stage in the plan.
The redesign of this suit is an important one, especially as NASA begins a series of historic space explorations. The last time that humans landed on the moon was during the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972.
From 1969 to 1972 NASA ran six historic Apollo missions to the moon. However, it has now been over 50 years since humans explored the lunar surface and it is important to note that on earth so much as changed politically, socially and culturally since then. It is fundamental to acknowledge the needs of the more inclusive group of astronauts who will be working in the suit in space.
Axiom plans to begin testing the new spacesuits in a simulated environment by the summer of this year, 2023.
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