In Greek mythology, Apollo, the god of knowledge, prophecy, and the Sun, had a twin sister. Her name was Artemis, and she was the goddess of the hunt and the wilderness. And of the Moon.
Of course, in modern culture, the word 'Apollo' is famous for something the Greeks never anticipated in their wildest dreams. It was the name for the series of NASA missions that sent humans to the Moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s. For decades, Apollo has stood alone as humanity's greatest adventure. But now, his sister is ready to claim her rightful place in space.
Artemis is the name for the series of missions that will bring humans on the Moon by 2024.
Ever since NASA announced that it was going to send people back to the Moon — and beyond — we've been breathlessly waiting for new details on how this will be done. On Tuesday, we got a big one. NASA revealed its new Artemis spacesuits.
These things are actually known by a fancy new name: Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Units, or xEMUs.
No, no. Not EMUs. xEMUs. Anyway, these may not look all that different from your classic spacesuit, but they have some seriously improved features that should cut down on this sort of stuff in the future.
Pick up that rock? No problem!
The Artemis spacesuits have improved arm movements, with sealed bearing that allow the person to rotate their arms around fully. They also have better gloves to allow astronauts to grasp items more naturally. Overall this means that the suits are much more comfortable to move in than any previous model.
The video of NASA's press conference below demonstrates this, too. (You can see the arm movements at around 7:50 and watch a rock get picked up at around 8:10 — or just watch the whole thing if you're keen!)
Sure, those movements still may seem awkward and unnatural. But then you have to keep in mind all of the things that a xEMU is designed to protect its wearer against.
Your own portable environment
Space is exceptionally dangerous to be in. It has extreme temperaures (both hot and cold), no atmosphere to breathe or maintain natural pressure on the human body, and is full of deadly radiation. It's great if a spacesuit can be comfortable, but above all, it must be safely sealed from these dangers.
That is why the Artemis spacesuits can handle temperatures from -156 to 121 °C (-250 and 250 °F). They also are completely dust-proof, a big deal considering that lunar dust contains tiny glass shards that would be harmful to breathe in. And they are fully pressurized to keep its wearer not only in breathable air, but a comfortable, Earth-like environment.