The US space agency NASA on Wednesday presented the new spacesuit to be worn by the first astronauts who will set foot on the Moon in 50 years, as part of the Artemis 3 mission scheduled for launch in 2025. For the first time in history, they will be a woman and a non-white person in the crew. The presentation was also attended by spokespeople for Axiom Space, the private company that developed the Moon suits for $228 million.
The lunar south pole is a strategic territory whose exploration is already being disputed by the great space powers, including the US and China. It is likely that there are large amounts of frozen water here in the perpetually shadowed areas where the sunlight never reaches. The water will be essential to sustain future colonies, make fuel and test all the systems necessary to fulfill the next big dream for NASA and Europe: to take astronauts to Mars.
Last summer, the US space agency announced 13 possible south pole locations as a landing site for the 2025 mission. Each of those marked regions measures approximately 15 kilometers (9 miles) on each side, and within them, the landing site It is located with an accuracy of 100 meters. All the points are about six degrees from the south pole, they are elevated areas and therefore well lit, and they are relatively close to shadowy craters where there may be abundant ice. China is considering some of these places to send a robotic mission there.
The new suits will be more like individual spacecraft, entered through a rear hatch, and containing all the necessary systems to keep explorers comfortable and safe from temperatures, radiation and lunar regolith (a layer of unconsolidated debris). Powerful headlights will allow astronauts to see around them despite backlighting as they traverse the terrain and pick up as much as 100 kg of rocks. This new generation of suits will allow for much more natural movement than its predecessors, including flexible-soled boots in the style of hiking shoes, NASA explained, meaning we will not see astronauts bouncing around in comical hops like they did half a century ago. The suit does still have a diaper, which is there in case the explorers can’t hold it in during their six-hour lunar excursions.
The same suit unveiled on Wednesday, with a few modifications, will be used for spacewalking on the International Space Station, in the future Gateway Station, which NASA describes as “a multi-purpose outpost orbiting the Moon that provides essential support for long-term human return to the lunar surface” and, in the more distant future, for Mars exploration.
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