NASA’s Artemis Program, a campaign established in 2017, aims to take the first woman and next next man to the Moon by 2024, and ultimately “take the next giant leap” for humanity by going to Mars. The mission is calling for a lot of new technologies, including some snazzy new spacesuits, which have just been unveiled by the space agency. And while they look similar to the older generation suits, NASA is certain they will make space far more pleasant for astronauts.
The two latest iterations of NASA’s spacesuits were unveiled at NASA’s headquarters in Washington D.C., with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and several spacesuit engineers, including Amy Ross, Kristine Davis (who’s wearing the white spacesuit), and Dustin Gohmert (who’s wearing the orange one) taking part in the unveiling. Here’s a clip of the moment Davis walked out onto the stage in her suit.
First look at the new Artemis-Generation spacesuits from @NASA. The spacesuit can fit both men & women and has greater mobility and flexibility than previous suits. ☄️✨ #NASA #space #science #physics #astronomy #astrophysics #tech #technology #technews #universe #ISS #engineering pic.twitter.com/cWy7psIP1F
— Eigenbros (@eigenbros) October 15, 2019
Davis’ suit, which is known as an Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (or xEMU), is so bulky because it is a prototype of the suit that will be worn by astronauts as they explore the Moon’s surface. And while it still leaves a bit to be desired in the aesthetics department, the upside is that it’s a far better suit than the ones originally worn by the first astronauts to land on the Moon.
According to NASA, the suit, which can be considered a “personalized spaceship,” is a guard against pretty much any perceivable test the unforgiving expanse around the Moon can throw at it. Some of the suit’s impressive features include the ability to withstand temperatures from minus 250 degrees Fahrenheit to 250 degrees Fahrenheit (which will both occur on the Moon’s shaded and unshaded surfaces), a set of voice-activated microphones in the suit, and filters for the Moon’s soil, which is apparently made up of “tiny glass-like shards.” There is also a “diaper-like garment” in the suit, although NASA says astronauts prefer not to use it unless necessary.
Introducing our next-generation spacesuit for #Artemis missions! Here, spacesuit engineer Kristine Davis demonstrates the improved mobility in the new suit, important for working on the Moon’s surface. Watch live: https://t.co/n8wWhy876P pic.twitter.com/9g6sfOaPbf
— NASA (@NASA) October 15, 2019
The second suit that was unveiled has been dubbed the Orion Crew Survival System (OCSS) suit, and will be used, for the most part, for launch and reentry through the atmosphere around Earth. Because the suits are not intended to be worn outside of the Orion crew capsule, they’re allowed to be far sleeker and flexible. For example, check out those OCSS kicks: They look like something Kanye West would sell for $650. The suits are impressive in the function department too, with the ability to keep astronauts alive in the suits for up to six days, which could be necessary if there was a cabin breach.
One of the most exciting aspects of these new suits, at least ostensibly, is the fact that they’ll be custom-tailored to their wearers. It seems that the previous generation of spacesuits, used during the shuttle-era, came in “off-the-shelf sizes like small, medium and large.” Which seems odd considering a flight-rated NASA spacesuit can cost $12 million.
Speaking of money, Bridenstein seemed to emphasize the idea of space exploration being a commercial endeavor. He mentioned the fact that NASA has already invested in commercial resupply of the International Space Station, and added that he wants “to see a lot of robust commercial habitats in low-Earth…” as well as commercialization even on Mars. Whether or not that idea excites you, it’s hard not to get excited for space travel when you watch a video like the above, which NASA released along with the unveiling of the suits.