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  • This isn't your traditional bathing suit.

  • It's actually NASA's

  • Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit,

  • or xEMU,

  • the first new flight spacesuit

  • developed by the agency in over 40 years.

  • And it's what the next astronauts will wear

  • when we finally go back to the moon in 2024.

  • But before its boots touch the lunar surface,

  • the suit must be tested, rigorously.

  • Amy Ross: We know that if we don't do our job well,

  • we can kill somebody.

  • Narrator: Testing isn't just about

  • making sure it functions.

  • It's about making sure the astronauts who use it

  • come back home safe.

  • Ross: We are a life-support system.

  • And so that is something that we all know

  • and keep in the back of our minds

  • every day as we do our job,

  • because rule No. 1 is crew members come home.

  • Narrator: This is Amy.

  • And Amy has to make sure the suit

  • can stand up to a lot.

  • The Artemis program plans to take crews

  • to the moon's south pole

  • for months at a time,

  • in shadowy regions that could drop

  • to minus 370 degrees Fahrenheit or even lower.

  • And astronauts will have to double as geologists,

  • especially given NASA's discovery

  • of the presence of ice on the moon,

  • something that could help fuel rockets,

  • turning the moon into a gas station en route to Mars.

  • So the xEMU testing process

  • has been long and grueling,

  • with some tests run twice the recommended amount

  • just to be safe.

  • It's all broken up into three phases.

  • Development,

  • design verification,

  • and qualification.

  • The first phase is all about finalizing a design.

  • Amy and her team try out

  • a bunch of different lower-quality components

  • before deciding which design to actually build.

  • Ross: You now, it's like a car.

  • Is your car's steering good?

  • Well, until you put it in a car,

  • it's hard to tell.

  • We can put different shoulders in and see,

  • does this shoulder work better than this shoulder?

  • Narrator: Once that's all figured out,

  • the suit moves to the design-verification stage.

  • Ross: The idea is that we're going to

  • stay on the moon for months at a time.

  • And that means that you need

  • to be very flexible and capable,

  • and you need to be durable.

  • Narrator: Now, we've been to the moon before,

  • but not for this long,

  • not this location,

  • and not with the knowledge we have now.

  • Ross: We're being asked to go to

  • permanently shadowed regions

  • because there are gases in those places

  • that stay very, very cold.

  • And I'm talking, like, minus-370-degrees-Fahrenheit cold.

  • Narrator: They won't be working

  • in temperatures that cold,

  • but the suit does have to withstand temperatures

  • as high as 250 degrees Fahrenheit

  • and as low as minus 250 degrees Fahrenheit,

  • a wider range than ever before.

  • To make sure it holds up,

  • NASA tests the suit in what's basically a big,

  • vacuum-sealed oven/freezer,

  • both manned and unmanned.

  • Ross: Chamber B here at Johnson Space Center

  • is a human-rated thermal vacuum chamber we'll use.

  • We'll go in there with a portable

  • life-support system on our back,

  • then we'll test the suit through

  • its different phases of operation

  • to make sure that it does hold up

  • and operates in the vacuum

  • and in the thermal environments that we'll see.

  • Narrator: Along with temperature controlled,

  • the suit must be durable.

  • When we first went to the moon,

  • scientists were concerned

  • that the regolith-covered lunar surface

  • wouldn't support the weight of people and machines.

  • But the real issue with the regolith

  • is that it's sharp and dusty,

  • something that could really muck up

  • the fine-tuned workings of a spacesuit.

  • So, where's the best place to test dust resistance?

  • Ross: In an environment that's dusty and rocky.

  • Narrator: This is what durability testing

  • in the Arizona desert looks like.

  • Ross: And that kind of tells you

  • what parts of your suit are affected by the dust,

  • does it have a problem with the dust so much?

  • Is your mobility system really able

  • to walk over this rough terrain?

  • Those kinds of things.

  • Narrator: But the desert simulates

  • the terrain of the moon

  • and not a lot else.

  • In order to test mobility in lunar gravity,

  • the engineers have to move someplace wetter.

  • Ross: Like the neutral buoyancy laboratory, our big pool.

  • Narrator: In this giant pool, 40 feet deep,

  • astronauts can see what it feels like

  • to be on the moon,

  • to a point.

  • Ross: It's not really like moon gravity,

  • because as you try to walk,

  • you're having to push through the water.

  • But as a reasonable analog to do some activities,

  • it's a good one.

  • Narrator: Activities like ladder climbing, using tools,

  • and ceremonially planting the American flag.

  • These tests let engineers collect objective data

  • about the suit's life-support system and mobility,

  • but also subjective data

  • about the crew's experience using it.

  • Ross: Our suit's not done until they say it's done

  • and they like it

  • and they think they can use it to do their job.

  • Narrator: Now, qualification testing

  • includes a lot of the same stuff as design verification,

  • but there are a few key differences.

  • Ross: Part of it is the paperwork.

  • Narrator: Things get a little more strict

  • in the qualification stage.

  • Ross: We have a lot of caretaking

  • to make sure that we understand

  • everything that is done with flight hardware.

  • You change a screw out,

  • there's a piece of paperwork,

  • it says this new screw got put in

  • on this date to this particular place.

  • Narrator: Since this is the stage

  • that lower-quality test hardware

  • gets swapped out for the fancy flight-ready stuff,

  • testing can slow down a bit.

  • But in the end...

  • Ross: When you do qualification testing,

  • you're really using that as a proof for everybody

  • to put in front of everybody

  • that says this suit is good to fly in space.

  • Narrator: And once they get the green light...

  • Ross: That's when you load it onto a vehicle,

  • take it up to space, and use it in a mission.

  • Narrator: NASA plans to send the xEMU

  • to use on the International Space Station in 2023

  • to collect flight data

  • and confirm the suit's overall performance.

  • It's important to note that

  • this isn't actually considered a test.

  • Ross: At NASA, we need to feel like

  • we're very confident that that hardware

  • is going to work the way it was required to work

  • before we fly it.

  • So we don't usually go into flight calling it a test.

  • Narrator: Instead, it's a flight-data mission.

  • And it will be one of the last major milestones

  • before the xEMU is ready to land on the moon.

  • Spacesuit testing can take years,

  • thousands of elbow bends,

  • and even more tests than we're able to show here.

  • But it's all necessary

  • to ensure the comfort, functionality,

  • and, most of all, safety for NASA's astronauts.

  • Oh, and I know you're probably curious

  • about how they test the suit's bathroom situation.

  • Well, NASA has basically created a diaper.

  • Ross: And we tend to use simulated urine,

  • just to keep things tidier.

  • Narrator: There you have it.

  • And subscribe to our YouTube channel

  • so you'll never miss a space secret.

This isn't your traditional bathing suit.

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B1 ross narrator suit moon nasa testing

How NASA Tests New Spacesuits

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/15
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