Extravehicular Mobility Unit: Technical Description

Updated on: March 1, 2023

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The Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) is a self-contained anthropomorphic spacesuit that provides astronauts with extravehicular activity (EVA) in Earth orbit with environmental protection, mobility, life support, and communications. It is a two-piece semi-rigid suit first introduced in 1981 and is now one of two types of EVA spacesuits used by crew members on the International Space Station (ISS).

At the very beginning of the 60s, the first spacesuits for the Apollo program were created during the development of the American space program, and The International Latex Corporation made the Apollo spacesuits. The spacesuits were constructed to order for each astronaut, all males. NASA shifted its emphasis to the next phase of space flight, the space shuttle program after men placed the American flag on the moon. The shuttles were built for a future of regular trips to and from orbit, with more astronauts on board than ever before.

Since the 60s, the design of the EMU has been modernized, externally and internally, but it is almost identical to previous models. But also important to consider the main parts of the spacesuit and understand their primary functions. The pressure garment and the life support system are the two essential components of a spacewalk spacesuit. The most interesting of them the pressure garment, is the part of the spacesuit that protects the body while still allowing mobility. The cooling apparel, upper torso, lower torso, and helmet are the main components of the pressure garment.

A pressure garment is a particular cooling garment comprised of flexible spandex cloth and water tubes that astronauts put on as the first portion of their spacesuit. This tight-fitting piece of clothing covers the entire body save the head, hands, and feet and is made of around 300 feet of tubes. During the spacewalk, which usually lasts several hours, chilled water runs via tubes near the spacewalker’s skin to control body temperature and eliminate excess heat. Vents in the spacesuit move sweat away from the astronaut’s body and aid circulation within the suit.

A spacesuit’s overall design begins with a helmet designed for spacewalks and functions as a pressure bubble constructed of durable plastic to keep the suit’s pressure contained. It also features a ventilation system that supplies oxygen to astronauts. A protective visor surrounds the pressure bubble, preventing it from bumping or damaging. The suit’s interior is connected to the relevant components in the portable life support system via a hard upper torso that is lightweight yet sturdy. It links to the arm assembly, which covers the arms, unites the gloves, and is fashioned like a sleeveless shirt. A rear-entry door will be built into the upper torso of the new exploration suits, allowing astronauts to clamber into the back of the suit.

The lower torso is the component of the suit that consists of spacesuit pants, boots, and the lower half of the waist closure. The waist bearing is a device that allows the astronaut to move and pivot. A metal body-seal connector connects the lower torso to the hard upper torso. Life support and communication systems are also essential for the suit, making up its functional basis, allowing the astronauts to communicate and, directly exist in vacuum conditions (Mahoney, 2020). The life support system is a backpack attached to the back of the spacesuit that holds the supplies and equipment needed to keep the suit operational. The suit is also powered by a backpack with a two-way radio for communication. Water for the cooling garment, a chiller to cool the water, and a pump to circulate the chilled water are all contained in the backpack.

All of the above demonstrates the effectiveness of past generations of space suits and the importance of new ones. These are next-generation spacesuits for the Artemis generation of astronauts, the need for which lies in simple parameters. The new suits are more comfortable, efficient, mobile, and prepared for the conditions of the new space program. With a new generation of astronauts comes a new generation of their equipment.


Mahoney, E. (2020). Spacesuit Basics. NASA. Web.

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