A next-generation spacesuit that will protect NASA astronauts during the agency’s return to Moon was unveiled at a special event yesterday. Although the suit’s functionality is undoubtedly decades ahead of its predecessor, the design has received mixed reactions.
The Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) was unveiled at an event held at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) on Tuesday. The event was presented by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine with the xEMU suit worn by Amy Ross, a spacesuit engineer at JSC.
Following the presentation, many commenters on Twitter expressed disappointment at the design of the suit, with much of the criticism focused on the colour scheme. The criticism ranged from concerns about how the dark blue would affect thermal management, to concerns that the red, white and blue colour scheme was just as reminiscent of a Russia flag as it was an American flag. Many other commenters felt simply that the use of colour in the suit design wasn’t executed very well and that opting for the traditional all-white would have been better.
Despite issues with a design that will likely revert to an all-white variant for production models, the xEMU is the next-generation spacesuit the agency has desperately needed.
The xEMU suit builds on those worn during the Apollo missions and those currently used aboard the International Space Station. It integrates several new redundancies into the Portable Life Support Systems that will reduce the risk faced by astronauts and enable longer spacewalk durations. Additionally, the xEMU suit integrates a new bearing design that enables far greater mobility in the arms, torso, and legs.
In addition to the xEMU spacesuit, the bright orange Orion Crew Survival System suit was also unveiled at the event. The suit will be worn by Artemis crews during the spaceflight to and from the Moon. Once on the surface of the Moon, the lunar EVA crew will step into xEMU suits to explore the surface of the Moon.