Gender-specific spacesuits launched for NASA’s Artemis mission

Materials World magazine
29 Oct 2019

NASA unveiled two new and improved spacesuits designed with custom-fit features, one of which will be intentionally worn by a woman first.

Helping to cope with the harsh conditions of the solar system, NASA has launched two spacesuits as part of the Artemis missions to the moon. NASA Johnson Space Centre Spacesuit Engineer, Kristine Davis, presented the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) prototype suit at the headquarters in Washington, USA, on 15 October 2019. NASA Johnson Space Centre Orion Survival System Project Manager, Dustin Gohmert, presented the Orion Survival System suit.

Firstly, the xEMU space suit was designed to improve upon those worn during the Apollo era, as well as the suits that are still currently used for spacewalks outside the International Space Station.

This model gained particular attention as the first woman and next man will use it for the Artemis mission, which aims to land on the moon by 2024. The need for spacesuits accessible for women’s bodies was been brought to public attention recently when NASA Astronaut Anne McClain was supposed to take part in the historic all-female walk in March 2019, but had to swap with fellow Astronaut Nick Hague due to the lack of spacesuits tailored for women.

The agency promised the new suit would offer more of a custom fit than previous spacesuits, as the intention of the mission is to include both a woman and a man. NASA claimed that each astronaut will undergo a full 3D body scan as they move and hold various postures, allowing them to match each person with components for maximum comfort and a broad range of motion.

According to NASA, the suit will allow spacefarers to be more nimble, reducing the comical but energy-intensive astronaut bunny hops on the lunar surface. The astronauts can even lift their arms over their heads, an impossible move when wearing the current EMU.

The Orion suit was also designed for a custom fit, incorporating safety technology and mobility features. The aim of the suit, NASA claimed, will be to help protect astronauts on launch day, in emergency situations, high-risk parts of missions near the Moon, and during the high-speed return to Earth.