NASA showed off new spaceflight suits and red, white and blue moonsuits Tuesday that astronauts will wear when launching into deep space aboard the agency's Orion capsules and walking about on the moon during planned Artemis missions to the lunar south pole starting as early as 2024., according to CBS News.
The next-generation suits will replace the bulky shuttle-era spacesuits currently used by spacewalking astronauts aboard the International Space Station, providing better comfort, improved mobility and greater flexibility while providing a safe haven in the vacuum, extreme temperatures and radiation while working on the dusty surface of the moon.
"These are our spacesuits for the Artemis generation," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said with a flourish as engineers wearing the new suits climbed onto a stage at NASA headquarters in Washington.
One suit, known at the Orion Crew Survival System, looks similar to the orange pressure suits space shuttle astronauts wore during launch and landing. But the new models feature a variety of improvements and are custom made for use aboard Orion capsules. The suits will be worn during launch atop NASA's New Space Launch System, or SLS, heavy-lift rocket and during the capsule's fiery plunge back into Earth's atmosphere at the end of a mission.
The other new suit is designed for used on the surface of the moon. It carries a typical NASA name, the "Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit," or xEMU. It will be pressurized between 4 and 8 pounds per square inch and carry enough oxygen for moonwalks lasting up to eight hours with a full hour held in reserve.
Both new suits can accommodate a broader range of astronaut sizes than the suits currently aboard the space station, opening up moon flights to virtually anyone accepted in the astronaut corps.
The Artemis program will rely on SLS boosters and Orion capsules to carry astronauts to lunar orbit where they will dock with a small space station known as Gateway. From there, crews will descend to the surface aboard a commercially-developed lander, carry out research and exploration and then return to the space station before heading back to Earth.
To reach the lunar surface by 2024, however, NASA must receive significant new funding, and it's not yet clear how the agency will fare in upcoming congressional budget negotiations.