NASA shows off new spacesuit and Orion Crew Survival System suit

Katie Ramirez
October 16, 2019

The agency's engineers Dustin Gohmert and Kristine Dans showed off the new suits at NASA headquarters on Wednesday, performing crunches and squats in front of the audience.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine showcased the ground prototypes of two spacesuits designed for lunar exploration: one for exploring the Moon's surface, known as the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), and one for launch and re-entry aboard the agency's mew Orion spacecraft, known as the Orion Crew Survival System.

The xEMU spacesuit will be the one used for Moon walks and has been designed with much more mobility than other spacesuits. "Which they can't do today and couldn't do during the Apollo program", Ross said.

NASA engineer Kristine Davis and NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine high-five at the press conference. "Well now we're actually going to be able to walk on the surface of the moon, which is very different than our suits in the past".

NASA plans to land on the Moon's South Pole under the Artemis mission.

The second spacesuit revealed was the orange Orion Crew Survival System suit, created to be worn by the astronauts to protect them during launch day, emergency situations, the riskiest parts of the near-moon mission and their rapid descent back to Earth.

"We ... are building spacesuits that will fit all of our astronauts", said Bridenstine.

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The primary goal of the suit is to protect astronauts against an accidental depressurisation, where the air pressure is lost from the inside of the spacecraft while it is travelling in a vacuum or near-vacuum.

"This is the suit that gets us there and home safely", he said. "We'll seek refuge in here".

As in previous missions, astronauts will still wear a diaper-like garment that absorbs excrement in the event that they need to relieve themselves during long spacewalks. Spacesuits being designed elsewhere have more futuristic and fashionable appearances.

Rubins was selected by NASA in 2009 and worked aboard the International Space Station in 2016.

Called xEMU, these new suits are free-size, capable of fitting anyone from "the first percentile female to the 99th percentile male", according to Amy Ross, a space suit designer present at the demonstration. The suit also has fewer seams and will use new materials that keep the dust out. It is about 10 pounds lighter than what astronauts wore on the space shuttle. The new suits would be adjusted at the shoulder, enabling size variation. In addition to updated spacesuits, the agency does not now have a spacecraft capable of landing on the moon.

But Nasa said it had been improved for comfort, fit and mobility on the Moon. By moving up the date four years, the leisurely pace had to be greatly accelerated.

The program's 2024 timeline has invoked concerns and criticism for being too ambitious, without enough time to build and test a new rocket, a mini space station and a lunar lander as laid out by the program. The deadline for proposals is November 1.

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