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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

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

House cancels Thursday session as FBI, Homeland Security warn of threat to Capitol

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security predict violent domestic extremists attacks will increase in 2021, according to a report obtained by Axios.

Driving the news: The joint report says extremists have discussed plans to take control of the Capitol and "remove Democratic lawmakers" on or about March 4. The House canceled its plans for Thursday votes as word of the possible threats spread.

3 hours ago - World

Pope Francis set to make first papal visit to Iraq amid possible turmoil

Data: Vatican News; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.

The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).