A fully equipped spacesuit is essentially a one-person spacecraft that protects astronauts from the extreme environment of space while they are are performing a spacewalk.
International Space Station
The largest, most complex international construction project in space, the International Space Station, was designed and built by engineers thousands of miles apart on Earth — and assembled in space thanks to the daring of spacewalking astronauts. In 1998, the STS-88 crew aboard Endeavour conducted three spacewalks kickstarting the station’s assembly sequence, attaching cables, connectors, and handrails to mate the two modules — Zarya and Unity — forming the embryonic orbiting laboratory. Spacewalking was the essential element that moved the incredible journey of orbital assembly, operations, and science from blueprint to reality. For more than 40 years, NASA astronauts have performed spacewalks outside the space station for maintenance and upgrades while wearing the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuit design that debuted during the Space Shuttle Program in the 1980s. Spacewalks are some of the most physically and mentally demanding tasks an astronaut can do, with each excursion typically six to eight hours in duration. Since station’s inception, there have been more than 250 spacewalks at the laboratory in low Earth orbit, and that number grows every year as maintenance and discovery power on.
On Dec. 24, 2013, NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins participates in the second of two spacewalks, spread over a four-day period, which were designed to allow the crew to change out a faulty water pump on the exterior of the Earth-orbiting International Space Station.
Low Earth Orbit
As the International Space Station enters its third decade, a new era of results is upon us as more than 20 years of experiments conducted on the orbiting laboratory yield scientific breakthroughs and establish a new low Earth orbit space economy with international partners and commercial providers. Soon, NASA will no longer rely on the Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or EMU, spacesuit design that debuted during the Space Shuttle Program in the 1980s for its spacewalking crews. Industry providers are contracted to design and build next-generation spacesuits that will protect and support astronauts as they reach iconic heights during forays in low Earth orbit for the space station, and those suits will benefit from cutting-edge technologies not yet available in decades past. More than 50 years of spacesuit expertise will inform the design modifications for the new suits as they get an upgrade for NASA’s growing mission portfolio.
NASA Astronaut Frank Rubio conducts a spacewalk during EVA-81 on Nov. 15 to prepare for installation of an International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Array on the Space Station.
Artemis astronauts will don next-generation spacesuits built by commercial providers and tailored for the lunar environment, where they will complete innovative NASA missions searching for ice and other volatiles near the lunar South Pole. These intricately designed suits will incorporate new technologies in the portable life support system, or PLSS, and a pressure garment system that infuses human factors considerations so that the astronauts’ “personal spaceships” allow them to move freely and efficiently, and with the least amount of effort possible, so they can focus solely on work tasks and scientific investigations without the hindrance of a bulky spacesuit. The new suits will be equipped with upgraded life support systems and innovative tools, enabling astronauts to maximize science and sample collection during moonwalks at Earth’s 4.5-billion-year-old natural satellite.
An artist’s illustration of two suited crew members working on the lunar surface.
Commercial Spacesuit Providers
NASA is partnering with commercial providers Axiom Space and Collins Aerospace to provide next-generation spacesuits perfectly suited to NASA’s expanded mission portfolio. Expanding the commercial space services market is an important element of NASA's long-term goals of exploration in low Earth orbit and in deep space, including the Moon and Mars.
Learn more about the history of spacesuits during the 50th anniversary of Apollo 17, the final mission to the Moon during the Apollo program.
Spacesuits for Artemis
Advanced spacesuits will protect astronauts on the Moon from the harsh lunar environment. Find out how NASA research and development are shaping spacesuits for the Artemis generation.
Keeping Cool in Space
Temperatures on the lunar surface can reach a blistering 250 degrees Fahrenheit. How does NASA keep astronauts cool in spacesuits so that they can work on the Moon?
The Most Dangerous EVA in U.S. History
Hear all about the lessons learned from EVA 23 in what has become the most dangerous EVA incident in U.S. history when European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano's helmet began filling up with water.
101 Spacesuit Infographic
Jun 6, 2023
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Extravehicular Mobility Unit Infographic
Jun 6, 2023
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Spacesuit Learning Resources
Artemis Generation Spacesuits
Artemis Generation Spacesuits was published by NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement as part of a series of educator guides to help middle school students reach their potential to join the next-generation STEM workforce.
Designing Spacesuits for Mars
The steps that spacesuit engineers and technicians follow to create their product are the same as those used in nearly every technological endeavor.
Suited for Spacewalking Educator Guide
This NASA educator guide for grades 5-12 focuses on the technology behind spacesuits.
Experiences enabling undergraduate students and K-16 educators to conduct science, engineering, mathematical, and technological experiments in a simulated microgravity environment or on a research-based platform.
Infographic: 50 Years of Spacewalking
Explore 50 years of spacewalking history, beginning in 1961, in this pictorial timeline of milestones reached … and those to come.