CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – Culminating years of design effort NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine unveiled a pair of hi tech Artemis generation astronaut spacesuits to be worn by the 1st woman and the next man who will journey to the Moon in Orion capsules and walk on the lunar South Pole by 2024 – during a rousing event held Tuesday, Oct 15, at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“We need Artemis generation spacesuits,” said Administrator Bridenstine to open the event showing prototypes of the new spacesuits to be worn by NASA astronauts as they explore the Moon as part of the agencies accelerated Project Artemis moon landing program.
Administrator Bridenstine and spacesuit engineer Amy Ross introduced the two new prototype suits – namely the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) and Orion Crew Survival System suit – in a splashy affair as two more engineers wearing the advanced spacesuits walked onto the NASA HQ stage to loud cheers and palpable excitement from the packed auditorium and then set about to demonstrate and explain in some detail the functions and capabilities of the suits.
“We are going to the Moon by 2024 and we want it to be sustainable so we can stay at the Moon for long periods of time by 2028. So we will have the Gateway in orbit around the Moon that will serve as a permanent and reusable command module around the Moon.”
“Ultimately the goal is this – We’re going to Mars. And in order to go to Mars, we have to use the Moon as a proving ground.”
“We have to learn how to live and work on the surface of another world for long periods of time. To do that we need spacesuits.”NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, left, high fives Kristine Davis, a spacesuit engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, wearing a ground prototype of NASA’s new Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), during a demonstration of the suit, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019 at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The xEMU suit improves on the suits previous worn on the Moon during the Apollo era and those currently in use for spacewalks outside the International Space Station and will be worn by first woman and next man as they explore the Moon as part of the agency’s Artemis program. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)
The NASA HQ auditorium event was attended by officials, news media and a large crowd of school students who could be inspired to study hard and perhaps one day journey with NASA to deep space.
The 2 new spacesuits are designed for NASA’s new Artemis Moon to Mars exploration program – 1 is for launch and reentry in the Orion deep space capsule, namely the Orion Crew Survival System suit; and the other is for exploration activities on the lunar surface, namely the xEMU or Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit suit.
“These are our spacesuits for the Artemis generation,” NASA Administrator Bridenstine announced to the crowd as two engineers – 1 woman and 1 man, Kristine Davis and Dustin Gohmert both from NASA’s Johnson Space Center – walked onto the stage wearing the two prototype suits to exuberant cheering.
And these suits will fit everyone regardless of shape, gender or size – because they are highly flexible and modular and thus upgradable to incorporate new technological advances.
“Kristine is wearing a spacesuit that will fit all of our astronauts when we go to the Moon,” Bridenstine said as he introduced Kristine Davis – wearing a red, white and blue xEMU prototyoe suit followed by Dustin Gohmert n a bright orange suit reminiscent of space shuttle suits from which it is derived with significant enhancements.
“Dustin Gohmert is wearing the suit astronauts will wear traveling on the way to the vicinity of the Moon.”NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, left, speaks with Dustin Gohmert, Orion Crew Survival Systems Project Manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, wearing the Orion Crew Survival System suit, about the suit, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019 at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The Orion suit is designed for a custom fit and incorporates safety technology and mobility features that will help protect astronauts on launch day, in emergency situations, high-risk parts of missions near the Moon, and during the high-speed return to Earth. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)
The astronauts will fly aboard the Orion crew capsule that launch to the Moon bolted atop NASA’s mammoth Space Launch System (SLS) heavy lift rocket from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.
The SLS rocket for Artemis 1 is currently under construction at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
Orion is being manufactured at KSC in the Operations and Checkout Building.
Read our continuing up to date articles about both programs
The new xEMU lunar suits are much more flexible and capable compared to NASA’s Apollo suits from the 1960s and 1970s and the agency has been working on them for several years before the new Artemis moon landing by 2024 goal program was first announced by Vice President Pence in March 2019.
They must also protect astronauts from the harsh environment of the moon including radiation, micrometeoroids and withstanding temperature extremes ranging from -250 degrees F in the shade to +250 degrees F in the sun in near total vacuum – while maintaining a pressure of about 8 psi.
“We’ve been working for a long time to build space suits that will do the job on the moon and going on to Mars,” said Amy Ross, a senior spacesuit engineer.
“My job is to take a basketball, shape it like a human, keep them alive in a harsh environment and give them the mobility to do their job.”
The xEMU suit improves on the suits previously worn during the Apollo era and those currently worn during spacewalks outside the International Space Station (ISS), says NASA.
Watch this short NASA video describing the xEMU lunar exploration suit and the Orion launch and reentry suit:
Video Caption: NASA Introduces New Spacesuits for the Moon and Mars. At NASA Headquarters on Oct. 15, 2019, Administrator Jim Bridenstine introduced the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) and Orion Crew Survival System suit which will be will be worn by first woman and next man as they explore the Moon as part of the #Artemis program. Credit: NASA
The xEMU shown at NASA HQ was a prototype. Teams will now build two suits and they will very likely be tested on the ISS likely by 2023 or earlier, said spacesuit engineer Chris Hansen, NASA JSC EVA manager.
Then they will be carried to the lunar south pole surface on the Artemis 3 moon landing mission slated for 2024.
These initial lunar surface exploration suits are being built in house by NASA.
But thereafter NASA is seeking to have commercial companies build the suits which will evolve and be upgraded over time with new technologies.
The astronauts will be able to work for about 8 hours on the lunar surface under a 100% pure oxygen atmosphere with advanced scrubbers for continuous CO2 removal. They are designed to prevent decompression sickness such as the ‘bends.’
The greater danger to the astronauts is the lunar soil that’s “composed of tiny glass-like shards, so the new suit has a suite of dust-tolerant features to prevent inhalation or contamination of the suit’s life support system or other spacecraft,” says NASA.
“The Portable Life Support System is the familiar backpack astronauts wear on spacewalks that houses the suit’s power and breathable air and removes exhaled carbon dioxide and other toxic gasses, odors and moisture from the suit. It also helps regulate temperature and monitors overall suit performance, emitting warnings if resources fall low, or if there is a system failure. 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. The duplication also increases safety and could increase spacewalk duration.”
“The primary components of the pressure garment are the upper torso, helmet, lower torso and cooling garment.”
Artist concept of an astronaut in the xEMU space suit setting up a science experiment on the lunar surface. Credits: NASA
“The new lower torso includes advanced materials and joint bearings that allow bending and rotating at the hips, increased bending at the knees, and hiking-style boots with flexible soles. On the upper torso, In addition to the updated shoulder placement, other shoulder enhancements allow astronauts to move their arms more freely and easily lift objects over their heads or reach across their body in the pressurized suit. Apollo shoulder mobility was enabled by pleats in the fabric with cable pulleys that provided mechanical advantage to move the shoulders up and down but limited the ability to rotate the joint. The new shoulders minimize the effort required for full mobility and include bearings that allow full rotation of the arm from shoulder to wrist.”
Launch of the first integrated SLS rocket and Orion deep space crew capsule is not expected until late 2020 or more likely the first half of 2021 from pad 39B.
Operations by the Explorations Ground Systems team are in full swing at KSC to ready launch pad 39B and test the core stage pathfinder inside the VAB.
Just days ago on Oct. 12 the EGS team conducted the final wet flow water test of the sound suppression system at pad 39B to ensure it protects the pad infrastructure and SLS rocket from the tremendous sound, thermal and pressure extremes of a real launch generating some 8.4 million pounds of liftoff thrust. Read our story.
And on Oct. 16 & 17 the EGS team practiced hoisting the SLS core stage pathfinder using two cranes from horizontal to vertical inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and lifting into High Bay 3 where the entire SLS rocket will be assembled for launch.
Watch for our detailed story.
You can watch the entire NASA HQ program from Oct. 15, 2019 with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine here:
Video Caption: Introducing Artemis Generation Spacesuits on Oct. 15, 2019. Credit: NASA TV
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