NASA’s New Moon-Bound Space Suit is Smarter, Safer and Much More Comfortable
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The next Americans to step on the Moon will do so with a completely new space suit based on the original Apollo suits that were last manufactured in the 1970s, but have improved significantly. With an easier entry, better mobility and better communications, they won’t be as uncomfortable or restrictive, even if you don’t want to use one at home yet.
NASA’s 2024 Moon Mission | New Moon-Bound Space Suit is Safer, Smarter and More Comfortable
The new space suit, known as the Extravehicular Mobility Unit for Exploration or XEMU, is still under development, but its features have been more or less completed. It is already tested underwater and orbital tests are planned for 2023.
Instead of building something completely new, NASA engineers have decided to address the (sometimes literal) problems of a proven previous design. As such, the new suit superficially resembles the one we saw the moonwalkers jumping rabbits around the lunar surface. But that is because the basic design of a combination that protects it from vacuum and cosmic radiation is relatively simple. In the words of NASA, a space suit is “a custom spacecraft that mimics all protections against the hostile environment of space and the basic resources provided by the Earth and its atmosphere.” There is very little room to maneuver.
NASA’s new Moon-bound spacesuit is safer, smarter, and much more comfortable.
But although some parts may not have changed much since the old days, other important improvements have been made. First, both for security and for missions, maneuverability has been improved in many ways.
On the one hand, there are new joints and better possibilities of movement for existing joints. The standard “astronautic position” that indicates the lack of flexibility of Apollo combinations should be virtually eliminated with the new freedoms granted to xEMU users. Not only will the normal range of motion be easier, but astronauts will be able to reach their own torso or lift something clear over their heads.
More flexible knees and “hiking” boots with flexible soles will also make it easier to bend down and lift objects. It’s hard to believe that we got this far without these basic skills.
The costume setting will also be much better; NASA uses anthropometry, or 3D body scanning, to determine precisely which parts and what adjustments will best fit a particular astronaut.
NASA Wants Ideas for Lunar Spacesuit Tech.
Speaking of which, a large part of the combination will consist of easily interchangeable modular parts. The lower half can be disconnected during an orbital EVA against a surface EVA, for example. And the helmet visor has a “sacrificial” protective layer that can easily be replaced by a new one if it is damaged.
Inside the helmet, the familiar but seemingly unpopular “Snoopy Capsules” that housed the microphones have disappeared, have been replaced by modern voice-activated microphones and headphones that will produce much better and much less sweaty audio quality.
In addition, the entire communications stack has been replaced by a new HD camera and lights, connected by a high-speed wireless data link. The live video of the Moon may be old, but it will be slightly different from this black and white granulated business of 1969.
One of the most important new features is the rear entrance. The tedious process of wearing an old-style EVA suit requires a lot of space and help. The new entrances are entered through a hatch in the back, which allows to place the arm hinges and other features in a more natural way, and possibly modify the assembly of the combinations. One can easily imagine a suit that acts as a kind of airlock: you go to the back, it blocks you and you go out into space. Well, there probably won’t be more than that, but the hatch in the back could make things interesting in that direction.
Although NASA designs and certifies these suits, they may not manufacture them. The agency called last week to find out how it could take full advantage of the space suits of the commercial space industry.
This is part of NASA’s decision to rely more and more on entrepreneurs and the private sector to support their ambitions of the Moon in 2024. Of course, subcontractors were also an essential part of the Apollo program, but NASA now gives them is giving
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