Undercover Artemis Spacesuit Revealed, "For All Mankind" Costume Designer Had a Hand in It

Axiom Artemis III spacesuit 26 photos
Photo: Axiom Space
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In the decades since space exploration became a rather mundane human activity, we’ve grown accustomed to some related things being a certain way. Like, say, we know for a fact astronaut spacesuits can be either orange (worn during launch) or white (for spacewalks, for instance). But how about a dark one so cool in appearance it’ll have you wish you were an astronaut?
Today is March 15, and this is the day NASA warned us about, the day when the spacesuit designed by Axiom Space for the Artemis III mission would break cover. And it did, not exactly in its full glory, but slightly undercover.

It was back in 2019 when NASA announced it was designing a new spacesuit to serve the needs of the Artemis Moon exploration program. They called it Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), and it was supposed to be the first major spacesuit redesign since the 1980s, when the ones currently in use on the International Space Station came to be.

Several technical details about the spacesuit accompanied the 2019 announcement, and they spoke of the thing’s capabilities. Being a Moon-bound piece of tech, it first and foremost needs to be able to resist the abrasive lunar dust - keep in mind the suits of the Apollo astronauts were severely damaged by the stuff, to the point entire layers were literally eaten away.

Then, it should be able to handle the harsh temperatures on the surface of the satellite, but also in space: that means between minus 250 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade and up to 250 degrees in the sun.

Axiom Artemis III spacesuit
Photo: Axiom Space
And last but not least, the suits would need to employ a pressure garment to protect astronauts further, but also a series of voice-activated microphones in lieu of the existing snoopy cap headsets.

We were expecting that, with the unveiling of the Axiom Artemis spacesuit, we’d learn more about how it’s made and what kind of tech goes into it. Sadly, at the time of writing that sole photo is the only thing we’ve got, together with the name of this particular suit: AxEMU. It needs a name to be differentiated from another similar technology being developed by Collins Aerospace and set to be worn by the astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA does say the new suit builds on “spacesuit prototype developments and incorporates the latest technology, enhanced mobility, and added protection from hazards at the Moon,” but exact details on what that means were not provided. Axiom says it will deliver an entire fleet of these costumes to NASA for testing purposes in a space-like environment later this summer, so it’s probably then when we’ll learn more about them.

Now, circling back to how we started all this, we can’t but be stunned by the suit’s appearance. Dark grey all over, it is accented by blue and orange elements that make it stand out like a true spacesuit of the future. Sadly, this color combination is not the one that will actually be used by astronauts. During daylight moonwalks, suits have to reflect light and heat away, and the best way to do that is to use white. And so will the actual Artemis III suits.

Artemis III astronauts on the moon \(rendering\)
Photo: NASA
What is this thing we’re looking at now, then? Well, it’s nothing more than a cover layer, which will only be used for display purposes. It was put together with help from one of America’s most talented costume designers, Esther Marquis, famous for her involvement in a number of high-profile movies and TV series, including the Fast and Furious Hobbs and Shaw spinoff, Westworld, and on a more related note, the alternative history TV series For All Mankind.

Why do they need this thing to be placed over the actual suit (aside from the fact it looks darn cool, obviously)? As per Axiom, that would be “to conceal the suit’s proprietary design” in this highly competitive world of ours.

The Artemis III mission will mark humanity’s return to another celestial body. It will also be the first time a woman and a person of color will set foot on the Moon. As a side note, the Axiom suit was designed to accommodate 90 percent of the U.S. population, so the astronauts' physical build should not be an issue.

The mission is also the most complex ever undertaken, with NASA relying heavily on technology developed by private company SpaceX to land the crew on the lunar surface. It also has to be a lot more coordinated than ever before, as the SpaceX lander will be sent to the Moon ahead of time, to wait for the Artemis III Orion to arrive and meet up with it in orbit.

Another first is that the landing will take place for the first time at the lunar South Pole, a region chosen for the high likelihood of being home to materials of great importance for our efforts to colonize the place, including oxygen and water.
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Editor's note: Gallery shows various Artemis program photos and images of the original xEMU prototype.

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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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