NASA and Axiom Space, a private company, have unveiled a new prototype for a space suit that will be worn by astronauts on the next moon mission. The new attire was showcased at Houston’s Johnson Space Center as part of a private-public partnership between the two organizations. The suit, known as the Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit, is designed for the Artemis III mission, and includes thermal protection and greater flexibility than the suits worn by astronauts on the Apollo missions 50 years ago.
The Axiom suit has multiple protective layers, life support system backpacks, a high-definition go-pro equivalent mounted on the helmet, and lights. The suit’s chief engineer, Jim Stein, demonstrated its range of motion by performing squats and knee bends on stage at NASA. The all-black cover layer with blue and orange trim was used to conceal the suit’s proprietary design, but the final version will be white to protect against heat and harsh lunar rays.
Axiom Space won a $228.5 million contract to design the suit for the Artemis III mission. The portable life support system in the suit is a combination of a “very fancy scuba tank and air conditioner.” The new suit can be worn for up to eight hours.
NASA’s Artmenis program aims to see humans return to the moon by 2025, marking the first such moon landing since the Apollo missions were retired in 1972. The announcement of the astronauts for the Artemis II mission, a moon orbit mission, is expected on April 3, but it is unclear whether the next moon mission will be more diverse. One other legacy of the Apollo missions remains: “We’re still using diapers in the spacesuits. They’re just honestly a very effective solution,” said Russell Ralston, the deputy program manager for extravehicular activity at Axiom Space.