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NASA's next-generation spacesuit for the Moon landing.

 

In September 2026, NASA planned to launch the Artemis III mission to send astronauts back to the Moon for the first time since Apollo 17 in December 1972.

 

With the next giant leap of humanity on the horizon, we will have to learn from past missions, innovating new technologies and components to support the upcoming Moon landing. Moreover, collaborations between government and private companies are crucial to achieving sustainable space exploration now more than ever.

 

A spacesuit is among the essential components for crewed lunar exploration missions, as astronauts cannot venture toward the surface without proper protection from harsh environments. For the Artemis III mission, NASA has announced the partnership with Axiom Space to develop the next-generation spacesuit suitable for lunar surface operations. The suit is known as the Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit or AxEMU.

 

In general, there are two types of spacesuits being worn by astronauts. The first type of spacesuit is the Intravehicular Suit, or Pressure Suit, to be worn mainly during liftoff and reentry, with the function of providing breathable air for astronauts in case of cabin depressurization or smoke accumulating inside the spacecraft. For the Artemis program, astronauts will wear the Orion Crew Survival System as their intravehicular suit.

 

Another type of spacesuit is the Extravehicular Suit, to be worn by an astronaut when they perform spacewalks outside their spacecraft. This type of spacesuit was designed to protect astronauts from harsh temperatures, harmful radiation, and keep them safe during the entire work period. This is the type of spacesuit that allowed humanity to set foot on the Moon during the Apollo era and will be once again with the AxEMU for the Artemis program.

 

The lesson learned from the A7L suit, the spacesuit worn by Apollo astronauts, was the mobility limitation while working on the lunar surface. Some astronauts experience trouble while grabbing equipment, while some fail on the Moon's surface, and most astronauts have to perform bunny-hopping across the surface, which is the most convenient way to walk around on the Moon. All the difficulties and limitations faced during the Apollo mission until the latest spacesuit abroad on the International Space Station are being researched and solved with this next-generation spacesuit.

 

Before wearing the spacesuit, the astronaut has to wear a liquid-cooling garment to avoid heat accumulation inside the spacesuit. For the AxEMU, here are some improvements from previous generation spacesuits.

 

The Portable Life Support System is a high-tech backpack that provides breathing air, carbon dioxide scrubber, electricity, and communications for up to 8 hours. The PLSS also has a backup oxygen of 1 hour, to be used only in case of emergency.

The Hard Upper Torso acts as body protection for astronauts, as well as being the control panel for astronauts to adjust the setting of their spacesuit accordingly.

An integrated 2-way communication system removes the need for 'Snoopy Cap' , a headset used for astronauts to communicate in the previous spacesuit.

High-definition camera and lighting system for streaming live feeds from the Moon's surface and providing sufficient lighting for astronauts working in the dimmer environment.

 

The AxEMU spacesuit is currently under development by Axiom Space, which collaborates with Prada to help design and develop solutions for materials and design features of the spacesuit. This spacesuit will be worn by the next generation of astronauts, including the first female astronaut on the Moon.

 

Apart from being one of the most important milestones in space exploration of this generation, and being the foundation for a mission to Mars and beyond, the collaboration between NASA and private companies will help foster a sustainable space economy. This is also the mission of GISTDA or Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (Public Organization), which also aims to create and support a sustainable space industry and economy in Thailand.

phakpoom.lao 1/4/2024 146 0
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