After 50 years since humans first set foot on the Moon during the Apollo program, NASA is now working on the Artemis program which aims to land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface by 2024. This program is named after another god of Greek mythology, Artemis, who is both the twin sister of Apollo and the goddess of the Moon.
To make full preparation for this long-awaited return to the Moon, NASA unveiled two new spacesuits in October. The next-generation spacesuits upgrading the classic ones worn by astronauts during the Apollo program in the 1960s and 1970s give astronauts more comfort and mobility on the Moon. Here are some highlights of the new spacesuits.
During the Apollo program, astronauts had to bunny hop on the surface of the Moon and could easily stumble due to the limited mobility of their suits, which led to low efficiency and could cause unimaginable danger. The new suits with advanced materials and flexible bearings allow for a greater range of movement at the waist, arms and legs. Astronauts will be able to reach across their body, perform squats and even bend down to pick up a rock and then lift it overhead. Now humans are really going to be able to walk rather than jump on the surface of the Moon.
On the Moon, astronauts have to contend with various environmental challenges. One of the biggest concerns is lunar dust. Engineers working for Moon landing missions worried that the powdery lunar dust wouldn't be stable enough to support the lunar lander or even astronauts walking on it. But after Apollo missions, they realized that there is a greater hazard which might be caused by the dust. The dust on the Moon composed of tiny glass-like shards can stick to surfaces of the spacesuits and even work its way into every nook and cranny. Once it infiltrates the suits’ life support systems, the astronauts’ health and safety can be seriously threatened. To keep the dust out, the new spacesuits are designed to have fewer seams and no zippers. Besides, the flexible parts of the suits are made from as many as 16 layers of advanced material which perform different functions including protecting astronauts from space dust.
Upgraded communications system
Astronauts no longer have to wear the so-called “Snoopy caps” which are given the name because they look like the aviator cap worn by the cartoon character. These communications caps, though having a cute name, can become sweaty and uncomfortable and their microphones do not always track well with the astronauts’ movements. The upgraded communications system includes multiple, embedded, voice-activated microphones that automatically pick up the astronauts’ voices when they speak, enabling them to communicate more efficiently with other crew members and mission control.
More sizes and better customization
Earlier this year, NASA had to cancel the first all-female spacewalk because the agency didn’t have enough medium-sized suits to fit both of the women aboard the International Space Station. Now, the new suits are designed to give the wearer a customized fit whatever their size. Besides, each astronaut will have a full body, 3D scan while wearing the suit and performing basic motions and postures expected during spacewalks. That can help NASA match the astronaut to the best suit components to ensure that they are given the greatest comfort and the broadest range of motion.
What do you think of NASA’s new spacesuits? Do you have any idea of other innovative features that can be added to the future-generation spacesuits?
bearing n. 轴承
contend with (a problem/difficulty)
shard n. 碎片
every nook and cranny 每个角落
infiltrate v. 渗入；潜入