Oct 15, 2019

NASA unveils new spacesuit for the Moon and more

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine with spacesuit engineers Amy Ross and Kristine Davis during a demonstration of the new spacesuit. Photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky

NASA's newest spacesuits are designed to allow astronauts to explore the Moon as never before.

Why it matters: The new spacesuits are a key component of NASA's Artemis mission, which is expected to bring humans back to the surface of the Moon by 2024, as directed by the Trump administration.

Details: The suit — called the xEMU — represents an upgrade from the Apollo-era spacesuits used on the lunar surface decades ago.

  • The xEMU has flexible joints to allow astronauts on the Moon's surface to be able to pick up rocks and investigate interesting samples more easily than the stiff suits used by Apollo moonwalkers.
  • It is also made to function in microgravity when needed and will be custom fit to each astronaut who wears one, according to NASA. The space agency also plans to adjust the suit for use on Mars one day.
  • The suit is designed to withstand the extremes of life on the Moon, functioning through temperatures as low as -250°F and as high as 250°F.

"We want you to not have to think about the suit at all," NASA spacesuit engineer Lindsay Aitchison told Axios in July of the agency's plans for the xEMU. "Anything you do just feels like working in your regular shirtsleeves."

But, but, but: The Artemis program still suffers from a lack of support in Congress, and the 2024 landing deadline is an ambitious one that will require billions of dollars in funding between now and then.

Go deeper: NASA needs a new spacesuit

Go deeper

Why an all-female spacewalk took so long

NASA astronaut Christina Koch takes a selfie during a spacewalk. Photo: NASA

As NASA aims to make spaceflight more inclusive and equitable, outdated ideas about women and their fitness for certain aspects of spaceflight still persist.

Driving the news: During a press briefing ahead of the historic all-female spacewalk on Friday, NASA's acting associate administrator for human exploration Ken Bowersox suggested that it took this long for two women to go on a spacewalk together in part because women's bodies aren't as fit for spacewalking as men's.

Go deeperArrowOct 22, 2019

NASA has a new head of human spaceflight

Photo: NASA

Former Department of Defense official Douglas Loverro has been named NASA's new head of human spaceflight after a months-long search.

Why it matters: Loverro will help lead NASA's push to the Moon as part of its Artemis program to land astronauts back on the lunar surface by 2024, as directed by the Trump administration.

Read moreArrowOct 16, 2019

NASA mission aims to map water ice on moon's south pole for the first time

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine on Oct. 15. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

NASA announced Friday plans to send the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the Moon in Dec. 2022 to study the concentration of water ice.

Why it matters: VIPER will gather data to inform NASA's first global water resource maps of the Moon. The mission's project manager, Daniel Andrews, said VIPER will help answer the question of "if the Moon could really contain the amount of resources we need to live off-world."

Go deeperArrowOct 26, 2019