Called the xEMU, the new suits take inspiration from current designs used by astronauts on the International Space Station, but with more upgrades that allow the suit to be taken into more demanding environments. The main focus of the suit is flexibility and maneuverability — two essential traits for space explorers to move beyond the ISS onto another planet, or in this case, the Moon. Aside from being highly pliable, NASA also claims that the xEMU can be fitted to astronauts of almost any size: “We can fit anywhere from the first percentile female to the 99th percentile male,” said Amy Ross, a NASA spacesuit designer. Built with a variety of different sized parts, the suit can be adjusted at the shoulder, allowing astronauts with different measurements to don it comfortably.
Learning from its previous visits to the lunar surface, NASA has also made this new suit extremely resistant to extremely fine lunar dust, which caused the Apollo astronauts quite a few problems, adhering to all their equipment. To prevent this, NASA has removed any zippers or cables on the xEMU, and completely sealed off the main components. The agency also says that the new spacesuits can withstand extreme temperatures, withstanding up to 250 Fahrenheit and as low as -250 Fahrenheit.
Though the xEMU is still in development, NASA says it will be ready for space missions as early as 2024, with a major review of the design taking place in 2021 to solve any outstanding problems. The agency plans on producing two of these suits, and will subsequently outsource production to the commercial space industry.
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