The old astronaut suits
Mission 2024 in a few words
You may have missed it, but NASA has unveiled its brand new space suit with great fanfare. More than just an astronaut's suit, it is the suit that American astronauts will wear on their return to the Moon, scheduled for 2024.
The old astronaut suits
The EMU or Extravehicular Mobility Unit is the suit that American astronauts currently wear. They offer several advantages. First of all, it is an almost completely modular suit. This means that NASA has several sizes of arms or legs for example. Since EMUs are reused, this becomes practical since astronauts vary in size.
In the hostile cold of space, 14 layers of different fabrics and materials protect the astronaut from death!
Despite all the beneficial aspects of this suit, many technological advances have made it necessary to develop a suit that is safer, more ergonomic and adapted to a greater variety of movements.
Let's talk about this long-awaited moon suit.
xEMU is the name given to the new space suit developed by NASA. These letters stand for Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit.
The first striking detail is undoubtedly the most superficial aspect: the colour of the suit! Some might retort that the colours are a little too flamboyant or patriotic. One would think that since space missions are often presented as expeditions in the name of humanity, one would have hoped for a more universal suit... But who are we to judge!
As you can imagine, during all space missions, astronauts are the focus of attention. It's not surprising that they are technological gems worth a fortune to develop and produce. Everything possible must be done to protect astronauts as much as possible from the dangers of space and to enable them to carry out their mission in the safest and most comfortable way possible. (Of course comfort comes into play when you consider that they sometimes have to stay in their suits for hours at a time, without the slightest hope of being able to reach the frequent itching).
The purpose of this week's demonstration was, in addition to presenting the outer appearance of the suit, to demonstrate the new capabilities of the American suit.
One of the major features is the increased freedom of movement of this new spacesuit. Indeed, Kristin Davis, a NASA engineer in charge of wearing the suit, insisted on gesture to show her ability to raise her hands high.
At the hips, astronauts will also benefit from a rotational movement in the suit. This will allow them to make pelvic movements so they can look behind them without necessarily having to make a full 180-degree movement.
Astronauts will therefore be able to bend over to pick up lunar rocks more easily.
If you've ever taken the time to watch a few videos of the Apollo missions, you know how difficult it was!
Unlike the previous version, which was quite limited in size, the new version can be worn by virtually anyone, regardless of the astronaut's size or gender. The new suit will therefore be much more versatile, as space missions will no longer be restricted by the problems associated with wearing the suit.
In addition to mobility, the xEMU has been designed to protect astronauts from deadly temperature fluctuations and radiation. As a result, they will be able to withstand temperatures as cold as -156 degrees Celsius and as hot as 121 degrees Celsius.
Unfortunately, one detail could not be settled: they will still have to resort to wearing diapers. Indeed, the engineers behind the design of these suits were not able to find a functional way to get rid of body matter (pee and poop) without the astronauts having to leave the suit.
At the same event, NASA took the opportunity to showcase the suit that the astronauts will wear on board the spacecraft that will take them to the Moon. The lighter Orion Crew Survival System will be worn during the launch of the rocket and the crew's return to Earth.
Mission 2024 in a few words
Everything seems to be well under way for the Artemis program, the name given to the new American lunar program. The name is well chosen since in Greek mythology, the goddess Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo.
We should therefore expect more and more revelations about the details of the upcoming lunar missions. We already know that this time it is the South Pole of the Moon that will be the playground for American astronauts.
Moreover, the importance of the Moon has grown in recent years. China, Russia and India all have their sights set on the moon. It is perhaps the recent success of China, which was the first country to put a lunar landing craft on the far side of the moon, that may have sounded the alarm in the United States. They may have realized that they no longer have the technological edge that allowed them to sit on their laurels.
Aside from national competition issues, recent analyses have shown that the Moon is not the cold rock one would have thought it was.
Scientists are increasingly thinking about exploiting the mineral and liquid resources that lie beneath the Moon's surface.
Among the projects being considered, the fractionation of lunar water into oxygen and hydrogen will allow on-site production of fuel for rockets that would have their launch pad on the Moon. Because the Moon's gravity is weaker than Earth's, rocket liftoffs from the Moon will be incomparably cheaper.
But the Moon is only the beginning, because as the Americans have made clear, the goal is to have a permanent presence on the Moon and to build a launch pad to Mars.
So a new era is about to begin!
Finally, here is the promotional video of the Artemis mission, published by NASA's official website.