back to article NASA picks a tailor for Artemis moonwalking suits

Ever the optimist, NASA has handed Axiom Space a $228.5 million deal to develop a moonwalking system in the first award under a competitive spacesuits contract. That is, if the Artemis mission ever gets there. What was supposed to have been the first uncrewed launch of the SLS rocket was scrubbed twice recently due to a leak …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Now you think of a suit?

    Don't you think they might have looked at a suit design once they decided that walking on the moon might have needed a suit?

    Hopefully the splash down in the water contract will be agreed before launch, or at least before spalshdown

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Now you think of a suit?

      NASA has spent billions of dollars over many years trying to build new spacesuits inhouse. It realised that at the current rate of progress, the suits would be ready a year or two after they're needed. So they've decided to give up on their internal project and ask the private sector to step in.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Now you think of a suit?

        Yes but the program began in 2005, got renamed by Obama and then made biggly-er by Trump

        So on a project with a tight deadline and numerous technical challengers I might have looked at some critical bits of technology that haven't been looked at for nearly 60years and which commercial vendors have never had to build. Rather than wait until 2years before I needed them.

        1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: Now you think of a suit?

          So on a project with a tight deadline and numerous technical challengers I might have looked at some critical bits of technology that haven't been looked at for nearly 60years and which commercial vendors have never had to build.

          So who makes those snazzy "Dan dare style numbers worn by SpaceX passengers?

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Now you think of a suit?

            So who makes those snazzy "Dan dare style numbers worn by SpaceX passengers?

            Someone who doesn't have to build a suit for EVA extremes, never mind walking on another celestial body,

          2. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Re: Now you think of a suit?

            The SpaceX suits are just balloons.

            They have one purpose, and that is to save the life of the occupant should a loss of cabin pressure occur.

            You can't do any real work in them in a vacuum. Can barely bend your elbows, fingers won't work etc.

            In sci-fi terms, they're pretty much the emergency rescue bags you shove someone into when there's no time to put on a proper suit.

            Great to have, but not a space suit.

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Now you think of a suit?

      Not NASA's fault.

      NASA has done half a dozen suit contracts and studies and Congress has yanked the funding for them all.

      There's the AX-5 - https://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/multimedia/images/2010/iotw/ax_5_astronaut.html

      There's the I-Suit - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I-Suit

      There's the Mark III - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_III_(space_suit)

      There's the Z-1 and Z-2 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z_series_space_suits

      There's also the MX-2, the PXS, and the North Dakota suit.

      They awarded $745M to Oceaneering International fo the "Constellation Space Suit system". WTF happened to that money?

      1. Jon 37

        Re: Now you think of a suit?

        The money went where intended: To supporters of the politicians involved.

        That applies to the entire moon program, really.

        Getting a working spacesuit and/or rocket would be a nice side effect, and there are lots of engineers trying their best to make that happen, but it isn't the goal of the people in charge of the funding.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Now you think of a suit?

        Wasn't it $140Mn or so to Oceaneering?

        Also, if the contract was terminated I imagine they didn't receive all of the money.

        Oceaneering are partnering with Axiom. So no doubt they'll make it all back eventually!

      3. Intractable Potsherd

        Re: Now you think of a suit?

        Looking at the photo of the AX-5, I think I can see why it didn't go much further. The genetic engineering programme would have been too expensive...

  2. ant 2

    Ever the optimist

    It's called contingency planning. In case you actually succeed.

  3. Trigonoceps occipitalis

    " ... land a woman and person of color ... "

    When I was a lad homosexuality was a crime and notices saying "no Irish, no coloured" were often seen in boarding house windows. It was the way things were. We have, thankfully, progressed a great deal as I have become older. I am sure there are many nuances here but is it really necessary today to specify the gender and racial characteristic of the astronauts before they have been chosen?

    No axe to grind, I just think NASA should just be selecting the best for the job.

    1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: " ... land a woman and person of color ... "

      notices saying "no Irish, no coloured"

      Even the Guardian concedes that "No dogs, no black, no Irish" signs are apocryphal and that even the single photograph of one is "of uncertain provenance". https://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/oct/21/no-irish-no-blacks-no-dogs-no-proof

      That said, women and non-white people were blatantly excluded from the original manned (what a giveaway) space flight programme and I see nothing wrong in deliberately seeking to rectify that now.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: " ... land a woman and person of color ... "

        So, between an incompetent black woman and a competent white man we should choose the woman because...?

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: " ... land a woman and person of color ... "

          Your logical fallacy today appears to be the false dichotomy.

          Huge talent pool, advanced testing techniques... no one in the room is incompetent.

          1. Sixtiesplastictrektableware Bronze badge

            Re: " ... land a woman and person of color ... "

            If we were to take logical fallacies from white people, what would they have left?

            Their tiny place in human history? Don't abuse them of this notion.

        2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: " ... land a woman and person of color ... "

          >So, between an incompetent black woman and a competent white man we should choose the woman because...?

          Lower mass, lower O2 requirement,

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: " ... land a woman and person of color ... "

        Even the Guardian concedes that "No dogs, no black, no Irish" signs are apocryphal and that even the single photograph of one is "of uncertain provenance". https://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/oct/21/no-irish-no-blacks-no-dogs-no-proof

        The photograph was mocked up for an exhibition, but it was based on some truth. There was a period after WW2 when construction workers were recruited from Ireland. Many of these transient workers would take lodgings and then disappear to another job leaving rent arrears and there was no easy way to trace them so landlords found it easier to refuse to accommodate them, instead preferring people with steady employment. To provide for these workers, shanty settlements were created alongside major projects like the motorways.

        1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: " ... land a woman and person of color ... "

          Oh, I don't doubt that there was anti-Irish bias, particularly after the IRA mainland bombing campaign started (cf 9/11 and anti-Islam bias) but the idea that Irish people and black people were routinely classified as domesticate animals is a dangerous exaggeration.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: " ... land a woman and person of color ... "

      Agreed. The thing is though, what jobs do they need to be good at? All round mechanic and troubleshooter in case anything breaks? LEM pilot in case the automation fails? They won't actually be doing much science on the Moon. Just setting up equipment and collecting samples. Maybe an amateur selenologist to pick out "interesting" looking samples. One of them will be a government "minder" of course, to make sure there's no photos or video of the alien base. Or the Nazi base.

      1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: " ... land a woman and person of color ... "

        That alien nazi moon base is right out then?

        Heil Zxyrumpbbb-¦™¬¶§gibhnnnn the 3rd.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: " ... land a woman and person of color ... "

      > No axe to grind, I just think NASA should just be selecting the best for the job.

      For sure. But what's 'the job' in question? If a modern mission requires the superb piloting and engineering skills of Neil Armstrong, then something has gone seriously wrong with that mission.

      The selection pool today is no longer limited to former military test pilots.

      The actual job spec for what folk will do on the moon is a bit hazy, too. If it's all a flag waving exercise, then yeah, symbolism is a part of the job spec.

      After all, Neil Armstrong was *merely* the best *American* for the job. Dai Jones the Rocket was an even better candidate, but didn't get the gig because he was Welsh and was a trade unionist to boot. Nifty geologist he was though.

      Symbology is a big chunk of the job.

      The US only out a man in moon because of its economic power. Symbols.

      1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: " ... land a woman and person of color ... "

        "The US only out a man in moon"

        The man in the moon is gay? Jesus, don't tell the Republicans, they'll insist that the next moon mission include a "conversion therapist."

    4. Totally not a Cylon Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: " ... land a woman and person of color ... "

      strangely enough NASA was testing female astronaut candidates back in the 50s for the Mercury program and they did rather well.

      Until it was decided for 'Reasons' that astronauts had to be 'Combat Pilots'; as the Airforce did not allow women to fly in combat missions that ruled out female astronauts.

      Turns out the 'average woman' can withstand high g forces than the 'average man' before greying out....

      Joke: We're also better at reading the instructions.........

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: " ... land a woman and person of color ... "

      Why not kill two birds with one stone, a colored woman ?

      But then to cover all the options under LGBQT+, you would probably need another dozen bodies. NASA "You're gonna need a bigger boat", sorry I mean ship, space ship.

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: " ... land a woman and person of color ... "

        "You're gonna need a bigger boat"

        Are there sharks on the Moon?

      2. midgepad Bronze badge

        Re: " ... land a woman and person of color ... "

        in no way excluded.

    6. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      The clue is in the name...

      Artemis...

      Goddess of nature, childbirth, wildlife, the Moon, the hunt, sudden death, animals, virginity, young women, and archery

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artemis

      Moon - check

      Female - check

  4. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Robotics

    > a $228.5 million deal to develop a moonwalking system

    If I was developing a "moonwalking" system, I would not put a person inside it.

    There will be people in the lander (capsule), but it seems to me that is where they should stay. If you want something outside, send a robot. Have it controlled in real time by the occupants of the lander.

    Or better: leave the people on Earth and use Mars-style rovers. A 4 - 5 second round trip time isn't so bad. Without the need for (heavy) life support systems, the carrying capacity and return-to-Earth capacity of the craft would be much increased.

    But where's the "swagger" and prestige in that?

    1. Sixtiesplastictrektableware Bronze badge

      Re: Robotics

      Dunno from swagger.

      However, if you tell me something, that's one thing.

      Until I lay eyes on it (within reason) we're just talking.

      Some people crazier than you (and me) wanna lay eyes on it.

      As long as they're not expecting us to, let 'em go.

      If they get back, I'd settle for just talking.

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Robotics

      Can't do that on Mars.

      The entire point of sending people back to the Moon is to practice manned exploration in a location where it's possible to scrub the mission and come home in a few hours to a day (survivable with only emergency O2 bottles), as opposed to several months.

      The other reason is of course because it's feasible within a political cycle, while Mars is not.

      As to why people?

      Partly because humans explore. It's what we do and why we're the most successful large animal on the planet.

      And partly because a human can slap a bit of gaffer tape on a broken bit and continue, instead of scrubbing the mission.

  5. frothyman
    Facepalm

    Are NASA passing the buck?

    So "Axiom Space will be responsible for the design, development, qualification, certification, and production of its spacesuits and support equipment..."?! Have they learned nothing from the Boeing 737 Max debacle? I hope NASA do some testing and certification of their own.

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