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NASA Unveils New Spacesuit Design, Virgin Galactic Jumps on Bandwagon

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Earlier Tuesday, the US Space Agency unveiled designs for what will be its next-generation spacesuit, known as the xEMU. The new suit could be worn by astronauts during NASA’s return trip to the moon, which is currently planned for 2024.
During a demonstration of the suit on Tuesday, NASA showed off the massively improved flexibility of the design, which should ensure that wearers maintain the mobility they need to comfortably live and work on the lunar surface.

Improved, But Incomplete

The suits are designed to fit a person of practically any size. “We can fit anywhere from the first percentile female to the 99th percentile male, said Amy Ross, one of NASA’s spacesuit designers during Tuesday’s demonstration. This massively improves the scope of who can wear a spacesuit, and hence who could be selected for NASA’s future moon mission, since the previous design was only available in a handful of sizes. NASA Besides its improved sizing and flexibility, the xEMU suit is also better designed to handle the harshness of the lunar landscape. Unlike the spacesuits used for the Apollo missions, the new design completely lacks zippers and is completely protected against the fine lunar dust which proved to be a problem during the first moon missions. The suits will also be capable of operating between -250 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit—though NASA did specify the suits would also protect the astronaut from such temperatures. Although most of the work on the suits is already done, NASA has noted that the suits are certainly not the finished product. The suit still needs to pass an onslaught of tests before it is approved and ordered for the 2024 moon mission, and a second design review is scheduled for 2021.

Virgin Galactic Also Exists

In related news, Virgin Galactic also revealed its own space attire earlier today. Unlike NASA’s suits, Virgin Galactic’s new gear isn’t actually designed to survive in the vacuum of space and does not include any features that would protect the wearer from anything more than standard clothing. NASA Virgin Galactic Instead, the suits are simply designed to keep wearers comfortable while traveling on the Virgin Galactic spaceplane, the VSS Unity. The suits were produced in collaboration with Under Armour and are personally tailored for each person flying with Virgin Galactic. What do you think of NASA’s new spacesuit designs? What improvements would you make? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Images are courtesy of Shutterstock.


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Nicholas Pongratz
Nick is a data scientist who teaches economics and communication in Budapest, Hungary, where he received a BA in Political Science and Economics and an MSc in Business Analytics...