Spacesuit lands astronauts with a new look

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A new spacesuit designed for astronauts hoping to land on the moon has been demonstrated in Texas.

NASA awarded Axiom Space, a company based in Houston, a $228.5m contract to provide the outfits for the first moon landing in more than 50 years.

The space agency is targeting late 2025 at the earliest to land two astronauts on the moon's south pole.

A prototype of the specially designed suits looks very different from the iconic ones worn by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin over half a century ago.

The suits are designed to be more flexible than before, with Axiom Space chief engineer Jim Stein able to squat and twist at the waist during a demonstration.

Axiom Space chief engineer Jim Stein demonstrates a prototype spacesuit. Pic: AP
Image: The new suit is more flexible than previous ones. Pic: AP
Axiom Space chief engineer Jim Stein demonstrates a prototype spacesuit, Wednesday, March 15, 2023, in Houston. NASA selected Axiom Space to design the spacesuits that its moonwalking astronauts will wear when they step onto the lunar surface later this decade. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Image: Pic: AP

The suits will also come in a variety of sizes, suitable for 90% of Americans, according to NASA.

Although the finished article will be white, to reflect heat and keep future moonwalkers cool, the suit displayed was black.

It also gives extra protection from the moon's harsh environment.

Astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin walks on the moon July 20, 1969, photographed by fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong, who said of the landing by Apollo II crew "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind". Footprints on the lunar dust are visible on the lower left of the picture. 1994 marks the 25th anniversary of man's first walk on the moon
Image: Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin walks on the moon in 1969

The Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit (AxEMU) suits also include life-support systems, pressure garments to facilitate long missions, and avionics.

NASA chief Bill Nelson said the new spacesuits "will open opportunities for more people to explore and conduct science on the moon than ever before".

Axiom Space chief engineer Jim Stein demonstrates a prototype spacesuit. Pic: AP
Image: The suit is designed for astronauts heading to the moon. Pic: AP

The company said it plans to have versions available for NASA training purposes later this summer, although the final version will be different.

The test flight of Artemis I (NASA's next-generation rocket) around the moon and back to Earth was completed in December, though no astronauts were on board.

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NASA's Artemis mission explained

Artemis II could be scheduled as early as next year, with four crew members. If that runs smoothly, its exploration of the moon's south pole with Artemis III will follow.