For the first time since 1981 - 42 years ago - new spacesuits have been designed for astronauts to return to the Moon. The last iteration of spacesuits had been designed in the Apollo era, when NASA first sent humans to explore the Moon, and had only been partially updated since then.
The new suits come in time for the Artemis program's Artemis III mission which is set to return humans to the Moon in 2025. Importantly, they are designed not only for male bodies but all people to wear comfortably. A well fitting suit minimizes fatigue and physical harm when worn so this is a crucial step forward to having a more inclusive space-faring civilization. For example, in 2019 NASA had planned to send two female astronauts to do a space walk on the ISS but had to replace one of them as they only had one female-appropriate suit.
Axiom Space, a Texas-based VC-backed space company, won a $228 million (£190m) contract last year to design the suits. New features include better joint stitches to improve mobility, and in-built lights and a HD camera in the helmets. This is a crucial feature as it will allow astronauts to survey the lunar surface and collect samples more easily, as well as stream video back to Earth. The suits will be made using advanced manufacturing methods including 3-D printers and laser cutters to ensure exact measurements.
Though NASA had attempted to redevelop space suits internally, in 2021 they revealed they had spent $420m on the project and not seen meaningful improvement. NASA then turned to the private sector to get the job done. This is a great example of Public-Private Partnerships playing out in the space sector and highlights why we need to continue funding private commercial space companies and opportunities.
Axiom Space's Artemis III spacesuit will be ready to meet the complex challenges of the lunar south pole and help grow our understanding of the moon in order to enable a long-term presence there