An official from NASA recently discussed an important feature that was added to the agency's new spacesuits that will be used for its upcoming Mars and Moon missions under the Artemis program. The official explained that the new feature is necessary to ensure the success of the mission and the safety of the astronauts.
NASA officially previewed the latest design for its new spacesuits known as the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) in October. According to the agency, even though the xEMU model slightly resembles the current suits worn by the crew of the International Space Station, they have designed with new features that will help astronauts carry out their missions.
The Redundant Systems Of xEMU
Some of the features that the xEMU models have are the redundant systems. Unlike in previous spacesuits, NASA added two of almost every component of the xEMU suit. According to Chris Hansen, the head of NASA's Extravehicular Activity Office, this will guarantee that astronauts will still be able to carry out their tasks in space even if they encounter a minor issue with their spacesuit.
"We've put in as many redundant systems as we can," Hansen said during the latest episode of NASA's Houston We Have A Podcast. "Whereas the current [extravehicular mobility unit] has a single pump, a single fan, all driven off of a single motor, if that system goes down, the [extravehicular activities will be] finished. We have to bring the crew back inside."
Ensuring the safety of Astronauts
Aside from ensuring the continuity of the mission, xEMU's redundant systems will also protect astronauts during their activities in space. As Hansen noted, the new system will make the xEMU spacesuits more reliable and will reduce the chances of encountering grave issues as the astronauts explore the lunar and Martian surface.
"This system, we have redundant pumps," he explained. "We have redundant fans. We have a redundant thermal control system. So we're trying to put in as much reliability as we can. Again, to allow the mission to keep going but also to obviously to protect the safety of the crew when they're out there."
xEMU Suits In NASA's Artemis Missions
As previously confirmed by NASA, the new xEMU suits will be used by astronauts who will participate in the agency's latest spaceflight program known as Artemis. The suits will most likely debut in NASA's upcoming return trip to the Moon, which is expected to launch sometime in 2024.
If all goes well for the agency, NASA will likely use the same suits for the first human mission to Mars. A scientist from NASA previously confirmed that the crewed expedition to the Red Planet for the Artemis program might take place in 2038.