Feeds

NASA shops for new Moon spacesuits and landers

'Not your father's moonship', insists space agency

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

NASA's return to the Moon with manned missions - planned to commence from 2020 - has taken some early steps in recent days. The space agency awarded a contract for its new generation of moonwalker spacesuits, and US defence globocorp Boeing submitted proposals for the new "Altair" lunar lander.

NASA concept art of the new suits and moon lander in action

Beer cans rated for helmet connection and vacuum conditions are surprisingly large. Fortunately gravity was light.

The new spacesuits are to be made by Oceaneering International. The firm, as its name suggests, does most of its business underwater - offering all kinds of deep-sea, diving and remotely-operated robosub services. But Oceaneering also does things in the space sector, in particular running NASA's well-known extravehicular activity (EVA) training tank. (Neutral buoyancy is the best long-term simulation for microgravity available without going into space.)

Oceaneering scooped an initial deal last June for next-gen space suits to be used in the new era of NASA manned spaceflight aboard the Constellation spaceships, using Ares lift stacks and Orion capsules. The new interim letter contract which becomes effective today requires Oceaneering "to begin work on the basic period of performance while NASA and the company negotiate the contract's final terms".

Development of a new range of specialist moonwalking suits is planned to begin from 2011. Comparatively ordinary kit to be worn inside spacecraft and on occasional EVAs in space is to be delivered from 2015, the planned start of the Constellation programme.

Meanwhile, the first development stages of the Moon ships and base plans are now starting in earnest. US aerospace giant Boeing announced on Friday that it had submitted a proposal to NASA to supply early design and engineering services for the "Altair" lunar lander programme. This project is at an early stage at present, with the space agency some distance from settling on a final design or a builder.

"Boeing is uniquely positioned to provide great design support now, as well as to support Altair development, test and evaluation when the time comes," said exec Keith Riley.

Altair landers will be substantially more capable than the Apollo ones, according to NASA - no doubt keen to refute accusations that it is merely repeating the Apollo programme of the 1960s and 70s. The next-gen moonships, which will meet up with their crews in Earth orbit, are expected to deliver four astronauts and 15+ tons of cargo to lunar surface and stay there for up to six months before the upper stage lifts off for a return journey.

NASA emphasises that there will be no need for astronauts to remain in Moon orbit as there was with Apollo, and that the new Moon expeditions will last far longer than those of yesteryear: hopefully to the extent where a permanently manned base can be kept up, though this will depend on conditions in the Moon's polar craters. If it proves possible to find areas with access to water ice and constant sunlight, running a lunar base will be far less difficult and costly: hence survey orbiters are planned to launch shortly.

Here's a NASA vid of how the agency sees its initial 2020s moonshots going, complete with spacesuited astronauts:

For now, though, NASA is about to cease manned spaceflight by its own efforts as the space shuttle fleet heads for retirement. The new Constellation astronaut lifters, combining an Ares I rocket with the Orion capsule as shown in the vid, should start flying to the International Space Station in six years or so. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.