Despite sounding like the plot to a Michael Bay film, NASA really does want to lasso an asteroid and land astronauts on it. In preparation of such an event, the agency has already begun experimenting with a new version of its Advanced Crew Escape System (ACES) suit, ensuring it’ll be suitable enough for astronauts when they actually spacewalk on an asteroid. NASA’s iconic orange ACES suit is currently used by astronauts during launch and reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
NASA explained that suits currently used for spacewalks on the International Space Station—the white Extravehicular Mobility Unit (or EMU)—are too bulky to be used inside its Orion spacecraft, which will be used during NASA’s asteroid hunting mission.
“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.
By performing a series of tests, NASA engineers have been figuring out ways to improve mobility, including enhanced gloves and elbow joints, and what features need to be included to ensure an astronaut’s safety, from launch back to the return trip to Earth. Gohmert said NASA is trying to get back to its heritage by designing a suit “for multiple tasks.” The ACES pumpkin suit was first worn by crews all the way back in 1994. Earlier this year, NASA unveiled a Buzz Lightyear-like Z-1 spacesuit concept that would be used as early as 2015, though it doesn’t appear that’s being considered for the asteroid mission.
NASA’s project is expected to officially capture and explore an asteroid by 2025.