NASA on Tuesday unveiled two spacesuits which will be used by the future astronauts who will be heading to the Moon. The latest development is a crucial step towards the agency’s mission to send humankind back to the Moon by 2024.
The event was held at NASA’s headquarters in Washington DC where the US space agency’s administrator Jim Bridenstine along with two spacesuit engineers showcased the new spacesuits designed for the Artemis program by NASA which aims to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024.
The first spacesuit, which is called Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), is built on the design of suits that are already worn by astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). It has three colours on it – white, red and blue. The new suit is upgraded in such a way that a person wearing it is able to live and work on the lunar surface. During the demonstration of the suit, an engineer showed its flexibility, showing that it can twist and bend at the waist level which has not been possible in the spacesuits of the past.
“We are going to the moon by 2024 and we want it to be sustainable,” Bridenstine was quoted as saying at the event. He also added that the Moon mission will be a testing ground for sending astronauts to a farther destination such as Mars. “Ultimately the goal is this: we’re going to Mars and in order to go to Mars, we need to use the moon as a proving ground,” Bridenstine said.
The other spacesuit is called Orion Crew Survival System, which is a bright orange pressure suit that will be worn by astronauts when they launch into space on the Orion capsule and return to Earth.
“This is the first suit we’ve designed in about 40 years,” news agency Reuters quoted Chris Hansen, manager at NASA’s spacesuit design office as saying. He also said that the spacesuits shown at the event were a prototype of the pressure garment.
The new spacesuits come as a much-required upgrade for the astronauts. Earlier this year in March, NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Anne McClain were scheduled to conduct the first-ever all-female spacewalk outside the ISS, however, due to unavailability of spacesuits that fit them properly, the mission was called off.
The all-female spacewalk is finally set to take place sometime later this week and it will feature Koch and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir.