Wednesday, April 24, 2024

NASA’s new space exploration suits are safer, more comfortable, and smarter

NASA has many ambitious projects. They are willing to break history and overcome all the achievements made decades ago in the Apollo exploration missions.

The space agency has recently published detailed information on its new generation spacesuit, designed to use in the Artemis lunar missions (or Artemis) scheduled for the year 2024. By the way, it can already be said that it looks similar to those used with the Apollo missions and those currently being carried by astronauts on the International Space Station. But there are some important differences.

The new spacesuit is called the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or xEMU for short. Its design is focused on the conditions of the lunar soil. So it is resistant to dust and glass particles. The xEMU suit will also have the ability to withstand the temperatures of the surface that oscillate violently – minus 250 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade and up to 250 degrees in the sun.

In addition, the portable life support system backpack has been improved to eliminate exhaled carbon dioxide, other toxic gases, and even the odors and moisture from the suit. It houses the entire suit’s power and regulates the temperature, in addition to issuing notifications in case of failures or changes in the system.

This rendering shows a digital fit check of astronaut with the xEMU upper torso.
This rendering shows a digital fit check of an astronaut with the xEMU upper torso. Credits: NASA

Miniaturization of electronics and plumbing systems have made it possible to build in duplicates for much of the system, making some failures less of a concern,” NASA wrote in the blog post. “The duplication also increases safety and could increase spacewalk durations.

Thanks to these new technologies used in these suits, astronauts will have the ability to bend their knees more effectively, rotate their hips, and have a better grip on the surface of the Moon.

Inside their helmets, Moonwalkers will have a variety of communication devices to keep in touch with each other. “The headphone, sometimes called snoopy caps,” on the suits used today, can become sweaty and uncomfortable inside the helmet, and the microphone does not always track the astronaut’s movements well.

An enhanced audio system now uses voice-activated microphones housed inside the upper torso. The helmet itself now also has a protective layer on its display, which basically works like the plastic of a new phone, protecting the device from dirt and debris with a surface shield that is easier to replace than an entire helmet.

It is important to note that the general improvements of NASA’s iconic design will make all activities on the Moon much easier.

The spacesuit can also be worn on a wide range of missions, thanks to their interchangeable and upgradeable parts. So the same process, or at least its “central system,” could be used on the International Space Station, on the moon, and perhaps even on Mars.

Still under development, xEMU has already undergone some underwater testing, with the orbital test likely starting in 2023.