NASA astronauts are getting some new duds, and you're invited to have a look.
In anticipation of the upcoming Artemis program that will send space flyers back to the moon in 2024, the space agency will hold a media event at its Washington headquarters Tuesday to show off two new spacesuit designs. The event will be live-streamed here beginning at 2 p.m. ET.
One of the suits, known as the Orion Crew Survival System, will be worn during launch and reentry aboard the Orion spacecraft. The other, called xEMU for Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, will be worn during excursions on the moon and, later, on Mars.
NASA said the xEMU is designed to outperform spacesuits worn during the Apollo era, as well as the ones now worn during spacewalks outside the International Space Station.
"You won't see the bunny hopping and falls like those seen in the Apollo videos, because we've added bearings and new soft elements to help the suit move smoothly with the wearer," Marshall Smith, director of NASA's human lunar exploration program, said in a statement. "With the improvements to the suits for Artemis missions, astronauts can now open up new possibilities for science and exploration at the moon."
The new suit will accommodate "a broad range of astronaut sizes," the agency said in a separate statement. That could help NASA avoid a repeat of an embarrassing situation that occurred in March, when the agency had to cancel the first all-female spacewalk at the last minute because it didn't have enough suits of the right size.
That first-of-its-kind spacewalk will now take place Oct. 21 as part of an ongoing "spacewalk bonanza" that continues through December. It will be conducted by astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch, both of whom are currently aboard the station.
NASA declined to give details on the new suits in advance of the event. But Pablo de Leon, a spacesuit expert at the University of North Dakota, told NBC News MACH in an email that one feature of the xEMU will be a new system for putting the suit on and taking it off.
"The last suits used on the moon … used a zipper to don and doff," he said. "This is not the case anymore, since dust gets around the zipper's teeth and will be prone to failure. Donning and doffing for the xEMU will be by a large opening in the back, with a sealed door."
Spacesuits are currently in short supply. De Leon said, "The astronauts on board the station only have four sets, and that's pretty much it."
Want more stories about space?
- China's lunar rover has found something weird on the moon's far side
- Weird 'whiplash' planet is unlike anything astronomers have ever seen
- A trip to Mars could cause brain damage. Here's how NASA aims to protect astronauts.