Films about space exploration, especially Hollywood films, have developed a myth about the suits that astronauts wear as they “walk” in the sky or on lunar soil. Oftentimes, when danger lurks, a hero rushes to don his high-tech armor and ventures out into the void to save himself and his crew with enviable prowess. Nothing could be more wrong. Wearing this uniform requires extensive preparation, which is assisted by all available personnel (both in orbit and on Earth), includes safety checks for critical items, and can take over four hours. On top of all this, the navigation is very limited, which requires rigorous user training. Since most of the systems in use today were designed in the early 1980s, NASA intends to invest in an overhaul of the explorers’ wardrobe.
The initiative has a purpose beyond just recycling. It is known that the US space agency intends to return astronauts to the moon through the Artemis mission scheduled for 2025. The idea is to build a base on the surface and maintain a station in lunar orbit. To simplify the lives of space explorers and give them more freedom of movement, there is a long list of necessary features that must be modified or added to their clothing. Over the past 14 years, $420 million has been invested in spacesuits, and the results have been less than promising. In order to keep the schedule up to date, the agency will resort to partnering with the private sector until new proposals emerge.
There are currently two types of suits: those used in space flights and those used in “spacewalks”. The first is much simpler than the second, which can have up to sixteen layers, in addition to a cooling suit, a garment with small tubes filled with liquid to regulate body temperature and prevent the formation of sweat during outdoor tasks. Those used on the International Space Station are called Extra Vehicle Mobility Units, or EMUs. Those on the Artemis mission will be called Expeditionary Vehicle Mobility Units, or xEMUs. In addition to including new features and technological advances, the prototypes allow astronauts to perform tasks in harsh space environments, with temperatures ranging from minus 120 degrees to 120 degrees, depending on the occurrence of sunlight. The idea, with the competition of new models, is to submit proposals to standardize travel and exploration clothing.
There are two main disputed propositions. One of them is called Astro and is being developed by three American companies: Collins Aerospace, ILC Dover and Oceaneering. The project involves the use of Vectran, a synthetic fiber made from a liquid crystal polymer that gives strength and flexibility to the new generation prosthesis. Another design, submitted by Genesis Engineering Solutions and dubbed the Single Person Spacecraft, or SPS, is a small spacecraft with robotic thrusters and arms — like deep-sea sensors — better suited to spacewalking. “The space suit is intended to exist as a human-shaped spacecraft that allows humans to explore and do work autonomously outside of the comfort of a spacecraft or space station,” says Kathleen Lewis of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. Corporation. The two ideas in production go hand in hand with an imperative: to make life easier and safer for space explorers than it was for the Apollo astronauts between 1961 and 1972.
The climax of NASA’s Apollo program, which aims to take humanity to the Moon, was the landing of the Apollo 11 mission on the Moon on July 20, 1969. Neil Armstrong, who famously said “That’s one small step man. One giant leap for humanity “, descended on the surface of Natural Satellite in one of the first spacesuits designed specifically for the occasion. About 30% lighter than the current ones, they were stiffer, allowing for very little movement.
The astronauts – in addition to Armstrong, who were part of the crew of Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, who did not disembark – could not bend over and pick up a rock. They had to use a special tool with a handle and a claw. To get around, he and Aldrin would step forward and use their toes to jump. This movement made them look like two clumsy rabbits, jumping and falling every two or three steps.
Published in VEJA on May 11, 2022, Issue No. 2788