We’re still a couple of years away from sending astronauts back to the Moon, but at least we now know what they’ll be sporting during the exciting return. The next-gen spacesuit that Artemis III astronauts will wear to walk on the Moon for the first time in over 50 years was revealed this week.
The Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit (AxEMU) is set to be part of the Artemis III mission in September 2026. The AxEMU spacesuit is designed to make it easier for astronauts to kneel down and work on the surface of the Moon, touted by developers as “a big improvement from the Apollo era.”
In a display of the suit’s flexibility, Houston-based Axiom Space, Inc. simulated an astronaut using specialized tools to recover lunar rocks from a small tray.
“The AxEMU 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,” Axiom said in a statement. “Since the AxEMU prototype unveiling in March 2023, Axiom Space has made substantial progress in suit design and testing. The suit design is beyond the preliminary design review point with NASA and will enter the critical design review phase in June 2024.”
In 2024 and 2025, the suit will be tested in a variety of ways to mimic the space environment. This includes testing at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory and in thermal vacuum chambers that expose the suit to the temperatures and vacuum experienced in space. This testing will aid engineers in ensuring that the suit is safe and complies with NASA requirements.
To ensure the suit can accommodate a wide range of crew members, Axiom Space said they have conducted many assessments with different subjects, including engineers and astronauts.
The Axiom Space AxEMU spacesuit is designed to withstand the full range of temperatures at the lunar south pole. It should be able to endure the coldest temperatures, in the permanently shadowed regions, for at least two hours.
“The team continues to work closely with NASA ensuring the spacesuit will meet all the requirements for the Artemis III mission,” Axiom said. “Our experts are actively engaged in innovative work to develop and refine spacesuit technologies to ensure a high level of safety, reliability, and performance in the design.”
South West News Service writer Dean Murray contributed to this report.