NASA unveils a new spacesuit designed for lunar return

The big, white, puffy moon suits worn by Neil Armstrong and the Apollo astronauts half a century ago are now out of style. Lunar haute couture now calls for something more form-fitting and suitable for both men and women.

NASA on Wednesday unveiled the first prototype of a newly designed and custom-built next-generation space suit and accessories for the first astronauts expected to return to the Moon in the next few years.

The latest moon apparel was shown off at Johnson Space Center in Houston during an event hosted for media and students by Axiom Space, the Texas-based company that has contracted with NASA to build suits for Artemis, the successor to the Apollo moon program.

The Artemis I mission, the inaugural launch of NASA’s powerful next-generation rocket and its newly built Orion spacecraft on an uncrewed test flight around the Moon and back, completed successfully in December.

NASA and the Canadian Space Agency plan to announce on April 3 that the four astronauts have been selected to fly early next year on the Artemis II flight, another round-trip mission.

If successful, the flight would pave the way for an Artemis III astronaut expedition to the surface of the Moon—the first ever to the lunar south pole—later this decade. He will be the first to send a woman to walk on the moon.

NASA promises that subsequent Artemis missions will include the first colored person on the moon.

The program, named after Apollo’s twin sister from Greek mythology, ultimately aims to create a sustainable lunar base as a springboard for future human exploration of Mars.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said the new spacesuits “will open up opportunities for more people to explore and conduct science on the moon than ever before.”

All 12 NASA astronauts who landed on the moon during a total of six Apollo missions from 1969 to 1972 were white men.

The clothes that Artemis astronauts wear to the moon will look very different from the bulky spacesuits of the past.

Branded by Axiom as the “Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit,” or AxEMU for short, the new suits are more streamlined and flexible than the old Apollo suits, with greater range of motion and versatility in size and fit.

It’s designed to fit a wide range of potential wearers, NASA said, and accommodates at least 90 percent of the U.S. population, both male and female. They will also incorporate advances in life support systems, compression garments and avionics.

However, the exact appearance of the suits remained a closely guarded trade secret. Those exhibits had a charcoal gray exterior with orange and blue dashes and the Axiom logo on the box—intended to disguise Axiom’s signature textile design.

But the company said the suits worn by astronauts on the lunar south pole will be white because that is the color that best reflects the harsh sunlight on the lunar surface and protects the wearer from the intense heat.

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