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Axiom Space unveils spacesuit design for NASA's next moon astronauts

Axiom Space unveiled its AxEMU prototype for a new moon suit for astronauts heading to the moon.
Axiom Space
Axiom Space
Axiom Space unveiled its AxEMU prototype for a new moon suit for astronauts heading to the moon.

The first person to step foot on the moon in more than 50 years will do it in a brand new space suit.

Commercial company Axiom Space unveiled a prototype of its suit for NASA's Artemis III astronauts Wednesday at the agency's Johnsons Space Center in Texas. The Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or AxEMU, build on NASA's previous space suit design and incorporates new technology for the agency's next moon program.

"Building on NASA’s years of research and expertise, Axiom’s next generation spacesuits will not only enable the first woman to walk on the Moon, but they will also open opportunities for more people to explore and conduct science on the Moon than ever before," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

Launch of Ax-3
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launches the Axiom-3 mission from Kennedy Space Center.

More than 50 years after the Apollo program, the Artemis III mission is set to take a new generation of astronauts to the lunar surface as early as 2025. To do so, NASA needed new suits and partnered with private companies like Axiom Space to design and develop the suits — with the ability to withstand the harsh environment of the moon's south pole, the proposed landing spot for the mission.

"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,” said Michael T. Suffredini, Axiom Space president and CEO.

At an event in Houston, an Axiom employee modeled a dark spacesuit, doing squats and twisting at the waist to demonstrate its flexibility. NASA / AP

A new take on space suits

NASA provided the company with technical and safety requirements for the suit. The design will enable astronauts to perform multiple tasks on the surface and will fit a broad range of body types, accommodating at least 90 percent of the U.S. male and female population.

The agency does not own the suit — instead, it purchases "moonwalking services" from the company. The arrangement is similar to how NASA operates its Commercial Crew program by paying companies like SpaceX to transport astronauts to the International Space Station on the company's own rocket and capsule.

“NASA is leading the way in enabling a growing space economy by leveraging industry capabilities and NASA’s expertise to provide moonwalking services as safely, effectively, and efficiently as possible,” said Lara Kearney, manager of NASA’s Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility program.

After Artemis III, other companies including Axiom Space will compete for NASA contracts for future moonwalking suits. Collins Aerospace recently was awarded a contract to develop space suits for ISS astronauts and can compete in future moonwalking task orders.

Brendan Byrne is Central Florida Public Media's Assistant News Director, managing the day-to-day operations of the newsroom, editing daily news stories, and managing the organization's internship program. Byrne also hosts Central Florida Public Media's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration, and the weekly news roundup podcast "The Wrap."
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