NASA intends to make spacewalking on an asteroid a reality.

The agency is planning a host of human deep space missions, including a voyage to a relocated asteroid. But because there’s less space inside its Orion spacecraft than inside the International Space Station (ISS), the standard “Extravehicular Mobility Units” spacesuits used for ISS spacewalks are too bulky — so NASA is working on a modified version of its Advanced Crew Escape System (ACES) suits for use inside and outside the spacecraft.

“The shell of them is very much the same, and to the casual user you may not even notice the difference, but internally we modified them to work with the plumbing inside Orion,” said Dustin Gohmert, crew survival systems manager at Houston’s Johnson Space Center, where engineers are testing the pumpkin-orange suits. “We’re stepping back to our heritage to be able to use one suit for multiple tasks.”

NASA is running a series of tests in Johnson’s “Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory” (giant swimming pool) to determine what aspects of the suit it needs to modify, like enhanced elbow joints and gloves that enable increased mobility.

The ACES pumpkin suit was first used by space shuttle crews in 1994.


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