Thursday, February 22

NASA chooses the company of the Spaniard López Alegría to create the space suits to return to the Moon


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NASA’s idea is to return astronauts to the Moon this decade. And not in any way: to establish a permanent base and stay to ‘live’ in our satellite. That is the goal of Artemis program, debtor of Apollo. But in addition to the spaceships, the people who travel there (the first women and the first people of color included) will need new and modern space suits that allow them to have a long and safe stay. Therefore, in line with the actions of recent years, the US space agency has decided not to embark on this ‘mission’ alone and to rely on private companies to carry out the work for it. Specifically, he will entrust the task to Axiom Space Y collins aerospacewho will compete to develop not only the space clothing, but also all the systems that support the spacewalks with which the International Space Station (ISS) will work.

The name of Axiom Space may be familiar: it is the company created by Michael Lopez-Alegriathe former NASA astronaut of Spanish origin who went ahead in space to Peter Duke. After retiring from the space agency, he created the company Axiom Space, recently famous for having organized the first trip of a totally private crew -and after paying 55 million dollars per ticket- commanded by López-Alegría himself.

“NASA has confidence in who we are, in our engineering and operations capacity and I think that gives clues to what the future may be,” said López-Alegría in an interview with ABC. Because Axiom Space aspires to much more than becoming a space tourism agency, and its intention is to create the first private space station. In fact, NASA has already given permission to attach three modules to the ISS. And now it looks like the company will have more work to do, creating the new spacewalk suits and gear with Collins Aerospace, one of the world’s largest suppliers of aerospace and defense products.

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The conditions of the contract

The prototypes will be created in the coming years by both companies based on NASA requirements and they will be responsible for the design, development, qualification, certification and production of spacesuits and support equipment for the Artemis program. But Axion Space and Collins Aerospace will not collaborate together, but instead will compete for specific contracts between now and 2034 — a model similar to the one the agency has used in developing the spacecraft, with Elon Musk-owned SpaceX and Blue Origin. , of the tycoon Jeff Bezos-.

The US space agency will spend a total of 3,500 million dollars (about 3,300 million euros) in all these contracts. But it will not be the only source of financing, since these companies will have to invest in their development and prove their effectiveness. In return, the technology developed will be theirs, and they will be able to use it on other private flights from other companies.

Possible clues about the costumes

Despite the fact that no clues have been shown about what the suits of the next walkers on the Moon will look like, NASA presented in 2019 the design of the new suits of the Artemis program. Then, two different teams were shown, one for extravehicular missions and the other for the more complex maneuvers on board the probe. Specifically, the xEMU model, the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, was made public, a red, white and blue suit designed to be used by astronauts exploring the lunar surface, specifically in the south pole of the moon, the objective of the NASA’s next manned lunar landing.

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On the other hand, the Orion Crew Life Support System was shown, a bright orange pressure equipment that astronauts will wear when they launch into space in the Orion capsule and return to Earth. Designed for flights to and from the Moon, it also has a number of improvements on older flight suits. A main feature of the suit is that while it is a depressurized suit, unlike the xEMU, it can be pressurized in an emergency.

“However, right now we can’t show the models because they are working on it,” Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said at the press conference. “But, by partnering with industry, we are efficiently advancing the technology needed to keep Americans on the ISS while we have our sights set on exploring the lunar surface.”

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