NASA has unveiled two new spacesuit prototypes intended to be worn by the first woman and next man on the moon during the 2024 Artemis lunar mission.
During an event held at NASA’s headquarters, administrator Jim Bridenstine introduced the new garments. The first was an exploration extravehicular mobility unit, designed for use on the lunar surface.
Unlike previous garments, the Artemis generation explorer spacesuits are more flexible under pressure and will allow astronauts to walk on the moon, rather than the characteristic “bunny-hop” associated with the first moon landing.
Spacesuit designer Amy Ross explained the processes surrounding the suits during the event. “We’ve been working for a long time to build spacesuits that will do the job on the moon and going on to Mars,” she said, adding this was the first time a suit has been designed with the intention of eventually being worn on another planet.
Beyond enhanced flexibility, she explained the new suits would be able to withstand temperatures between -150C to 120C – particularly useful for the suspected “cold spots” on the moon’s south pole, where the Artemis mission will target specifically.
The second suit revealed was an orange pressure suit, which will be worn by astronauts while launching into space and re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. Named the Orion crew survival suit, it is tailored to individual astronauts as well as the spacecraft itself which allows scientists to monitor astronauts throughout the journeys.
The need for more inclusive spacesuits was compounded earlier this year when NASA had to scrap plans for the first ever all-female spacewalk, citing a lack of spacesuits in the right size. Astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch were supposed to leave the ISS to change batteries, but the circumstances meant McClain had to give up her spot to a male colleague.
It was after this failed mission that Bridenstine announced the Artemis mission – named after the ancient Greek god Apollo’s twin sister.
Following the unveiling of the new, more inclusive spacesuits, NASA also announced a new all-female spacewalk is planned for Friday 18 October, featuring Koch and fellow astronaut Jessica Meir.