NASA has revealed the spacesuits that astronauts will wear on the moon for the upcoming Artemis lunar missions, which will see the first woman and non-white person reach the moon’s surface.
“We have not had a new suit since the suits that we designed for the Space Shuttle, and those suits are currently in use on the space station — so, for 40 years, we’ve been using the same suit based on that technology,” said Vanessa Wyche at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, at a press conference on 15 March.
The new suit, which was built by private company Axiom Space for NASA, is designed to withstand the harsh environment of the lunar south pole, where temperatures are around -13°C (9°F) on average, but can dip hundreds of degrees lower in craters that are in permanent shadow.
It will also have improved mobility over previous suits, weighing in at 55 kilograms – around 25 kilograms lighter than the spacesuits worn by the Apollo astronauts – and will have more custom joints for a greater range of motion. As the suit has so many joints, it can’t be taken on and off easily. Astronauts will need to climb through a hatch at the back of the suit to enter.
The suit also features a panel of torches above the helmet for operating tools and scientific instruments in low light, as well as a high-definition camera so people on Earth can watch what the astronauts are doing.
The photos released by Axiom Space show the suit with a black outer layer designed by Esther Marquis, a costume designer from the Apple TV+ sci-fi series For All Mankind in Axiom’s brand colours. The suits worn on the moon will be white, in order to reflect heat and keep the astronauts at the right temperature.
If all goes according to schedule, NASA’s Artemis 3 mission will land the first female and non-white astronauts on the moon in 2025. Space exploration, especially on the moon, has historically been almost exclusively by white men. Until last year, for example, the specific radiation risk for women had never been studied.