By 2024, NASA’s Artemis program aims to return human to the moon. Designing a spacesuit at the hostile environment of the moon is very difficult. Weight is an important factor for space travel, the lighter the better. Moon’s regolith is a serious problem due to the absence of the atmosphere. Moon’s dust is jagged and is sticky resulting in degradation of spacesuits. The lower portion of the suit lacked bearing joints due to weight restrictions causing stiffness. With Artemis on the horizon NASA from the knowledge of Extravehicular Mobility Units or EMUs(space suits used for shuttle missions) has unveiled eXploration Extravehicular Mobility Units(xEMU). It’s bubble helmet improves downward visibility and makes use of more bearing joints for the lower body to allow astronauts to walk naturally on the moon’s surface.
Armstrong after his journey to moon, advised the ability for astronauts to get on their knees easily. Up the top, the bearing joints have been tweaked by canting the shoulder bearings forward. Current EMUs caused long term shoulder injuries.
The xEMU is a single piece having a hatch on the back for the astronauts to enter like Russian Orlan spacesuits. The hatch carries the Portable Life Support System having redundant systems to protect against failure. With the purpose on capturing exhaled carbon dioxide and releasing it into space, CO2 scrubbers are doubled up. It has higher pressure oxygen tanks to store more oxygen giving durability to the suit. NASA is making 3D scans of suit users and tailoring it specifically to them to ensure how long the astronaut can comfortably stay inside the suit. The suits still needs a lot of update ahead. First iterations will be tested at the ISS by 2023 as planned by NASA. If successful, the xEMU could bean iconic spacesuits for the next generation.