Axiom Space designed it to accommodate more body types and survive tougher conditions.
- Did you know that the spacesuit used in the Apollo mission, the very first garment that touched the surface of the moon, was handmade, completely customized, and was made by the industrial division of the women's bra manufacturer, Playtex?
- Spacesuits are sometimes described as the world's smallest spacecraft. They're self-contained environments, tightly wound to the human body encompassing everything astronauts need to survive. Since the Project Mercury in the early 60s, the design of spacesuits has evolved significantly. As you can imagine, there's been a lot of trial and error.
The Artemis III mission will take humanity back to the moon for the first time in more than 50 years. Last September, NASA picked Axiom Space to build a spacesuits that astronauts will wear when they leave their spacecraft and explore the lunar landscape. Today in Texas, NASA and Axiom Space finally showcased the prototype spacesuit that crews will use for moonwalks near the Lunar South Pole, which reaches temperatures below 200 degrees Celsius or 330 degrees Fahrenheit. Creating a suit that can handle such conditions requires precision. So Axiom used 3D printing and laser cutting technology to build some components.
The design can handle the extreme cold of permanently shadowed areas on the moon. The helmet includes both lights and an HD camera to document the wearer's experiences. While the gloves are designed for extended use in microgravity. And there's a life support backpack that not only contains all the crucial survival tools, but also astronauts enter the suit through this hatch. The biggest progress is that the suit has more joints that let them kneel and move around with ease. So compared to this--
- Astronauts are going to have a lot more flexibility and mobility. No, the black version isn't what you'll see in use. The finished spacesuit will be white. Why? Well, when the sun is shining on the moon's South Pole it can reach 130 Fahrenheit or 54 Celsius. So the white will help reflect the light and protect against the extreme heat.
The Artemis III mission is currently slated for December 2025, almost 53 years after the last crewed lunar landing touched down in 1972, and is ready to include the first woman to walk on the moon. There was an all-female spacewalk planned back in 2019. But that was canceled due to the lack of properly fitting gear, which put a spotlight on a spacesuit design. NASA wrote in a statement that the new design is meant to accommodate at least 90% of the US male and female population. Something about that, sounding like progress, maybe.
The crew for Artemis III has not yet been named. But NASA has said it will include four astronauts. The two people who reach the surface will stay there for just under a week and carry out as many as four moonwalks, including Rover expeditions and ice sample collection. Two other crew members will remain abroad on Orion capsule that will collect the crew when it returns using a SpaceX Starship.
This spacesuit isn't necessarily the only one NASA will use moving forward. Other vendors are competing for orders that would handle future moon landings and International Space station activities. However, it might be the highest profile example. And hopefully, it'll be the one that helps NASA make history.