Strange Photos Show NASA Astronauts Testing Spacesuits With No Arms or Visors

Arms Race

New photos from NASA show the space agency's astronauts testing spacesuits in the Arizona desert — but we're not sure these things are quite spaceworthy yet.

Why? Because they're missing, among other things, arms, legs and visors, leading to an entertaining photoshoot in which astronauts Kate Rubins and Andre Douglas trudge around completing Moonish tasks while garbed half in space gear and half in fairly regular-looking hiking clothes, including sunglasses that look comically out of place with the off-world getups.

NASA's writeup doesn't quite explain the eccentric spacesuit design, but it does specify that the outfits are mockups. Reading between the lines, it sounds like the agency is basically rehearsing parts of the Artemis 3 mission — slated to return astronauts to the lunar surface in a few years — even if the suits aren't fully cooked yet, to practice and pin down any shortcomings in the design back on the safety of Earth.

"Field tests play a critical role in helping us test all of the systems, hardware, and technology we’ll need to conduct successful lunar operations during Artemis missions," said Barbara Janoiko, director for the field test at Johnson. "Our engineering and science teams have worked together seamlessly to ensure we are prepared every step of the way for when astronauts step foot on the Moon again."

Moon Walkers

It also sounds like the astronauts are being prepared for the geological research they'll need to conduct on the Moon. That's well-precedented; the Apollo astronauts were so highly trained that by the time they landed, it's estimated that each had the equivalent of a master's degree in geology.

"During Artemis III, the astronauts will be our science operators on the lunar surface with an entire science team supporting them from here on Earth," said NASA Goddard Space Flight Center science officer Cherie Achilles in the writeup. "This simulation gives us an opportunity to practice conducting geology from afar in real time."

And big picture, it's just another fascinating glimpse into the exhaustive preparation that NASA and its Artemis astronauts are now undertaking to prepare for humankind's first crewed lunar landing since 1972.

"The test will evaluate gaps and challenges associated with lunar South Pole operations, including data collection and communications between the flight control team and science team in Houston for rapid decision-making protocols," reads the blurb. "At the conclusion of each simulated moonwalk, the science team, flight control team, crewmembers, and field experts will come together to discuss and record lessons learned."

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