With its sights set on deep space, NASA has tasked Oceaneering International to develop the first new space suit since the shuttle “jet pack” of the 1980s. For lunar missions, the Constellation Space Suit System, or CSSS, will come in two configurations: one that the astronauts will wear aboard the spaceship during launch, landing and spacewalks; and a second configuration designed to be worn on the moon’s surface. The two suits will share many components, such as boots, legs, gloves, and cooling and communications systems.
The big challenge is designing a system for handling solid waste in the event that the crew capsule loses cabin pressure and the astronauts have to spend an extended period, even days, in their suits while the problem is repaired.
For long missions in deep space, astronauts must maintain their own suits, learning beforehand how to fix every port and sensor on them. “When you strap in for the real mission, you should feel like you’re home,” says Jim Buchli, the program manager for the CSSS at Oceaneering. “There should be no surprises. —Dawn Stover, with additional reporting by Carina Storrs
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