NASA unveils future astronaut lunar spacesuit

Jim Stein, Chief Engineer of Axiom Space, demonstrates a prototype of the new American space suit in Houston, Texas on March 15, 2023.

It is logical that it was at its Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, the center of manned flight, that NASA unveiled on Wednesday, March 15, a prototype spacesuit to be worn by astronauts of the Artemis program. they set foot on the moon. Designed by the privately held company Axiom Space, this next-generation spacesuit featured an anthracite livery that hid some of the technical details that Axiom Space didn’t want to show off to its competitors. In fact, the final version will be white so as not to absorb the sun’s rays, because if the temperature on our satellite can drop to -180°C in craters that are constantly in the shade, it can also rise to more than 120°C facing the Sun . Compared to the Apollo spacesuits, this new equipment proved to be more flexible, and a lighting system and a high-resolution camera were integrated into the top of the helmet.

Designed for what in space jargon are called “extravehicular exits”, that is, spacewalks, outside the transport ship, the suits must provide a constant temperature and pressure. Their tightness and reliability are very important, because a leak can have serious consequences. They also have the function of supplying their passenger with oxygen and water. These vital systems are placed in a large box located on the astronaut’s back and held by a system of hinges. When they open, a kind of hatch appears, through which the astronaut slips into the spacesuit feet first.

Artemis-2 and 3 missions

During Wednesday’s presentation, Vanessa Wyche, director of the Johnson Space Center, elaborated that the United States had “no new spacesuits since those (…) designed for the Space Shuttle and currently used in International Space. Therefore, we have been using the same combination based on this technology for forty years,” she concluded.

During the presentation of the prototype suit, March 15. During the presentation of the prototype suit, March 15.

The Artemis lunar program went live in November 2022 with the first (uncrewed) flight of the Space Launch System, NASA’s new heavy launch vehicle that successfully sent the Orion capsule around the Moon. This twenty-five-day journey ended on December 11, 2022 with a landing in the Pacific Ocean and allowed the rocket and Orion to be tested for proper functioning. The Artemis 2 mission, scheduled for the fall of 2024, will be based on the same scheme, but this time with a crew that will fly over the Earth’s natural satellite.

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