NASA had to cancel its first all-female space walk earlier this year. The reason was embarrassing. They didn't have enough space suits that fit two women.
NASA has has ambitions to land the first woman on the moon by 2024. And this week -- five decades after NASA's first moonwalk -- the agency has finally made a giant leap for womankind. They've just unveiled two new spacesuits that are designed to fit more diverse bodies, including women.
One spacesuit allows for easier movement and mobility on the Moon and spacewalks. They plan to evolve its design for Mars. The suit can withstand temperatures from -250 degrees Fahrenheit to +250 degrees.
The other suit is for astronauts to wear during re-entry. In the event of spacecraft depressurization, the suits themselves provide astronauts oxygen and can keep them alive for up to six days.
Adjustable fit and sizing
NASA's previous suits were not very accommodating for different body types, sizes, and genders. NASA had different sizes of suits, but didn't have enough of them available. When there was only one medium-sized spacesuit torso available that was properly configured available, the agency had to cancel its first all-female spacewalk.
That should be less of a problem going forward.
This new suit has modular pieces on the chest and wait that can be adjusted for the best fit. They can be tightened or expanded to better fit each astronaut's body. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said the suits can fit everyone "from the first percentile of women to the 99th percentile of men."
"We want every person who dreams of going into space to be able to say to themselves, that yes, they have that opportunity," Bridenstine said when the suits were unveiled.
More flexibility and movement
While wearing the new suit, it'll be easier for astronauts to do astronaut things while out on the job -- such as pick up moon rocks or hold tools. They'll be able to move around and walk, bend, and twist. Even Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin weren't able to do that. Their moonwalk was more of a moon hop.
Kristine Davis, who modeled the suit, even did a couple squats on stage to demonstrate how much movement the new spacesuit allows. The suit's innovative shoulder design allows astronauts to move their arms in a full circle.
Though the suits look very similar to those of decades past, they boast several upgrades for the modern astronaut. The helmets are lighter and stronger, and the material is fire resistant. The suits are also designed to allow for longer extravehicular missions and have better seams to keep out lunar dust.