NASA has bold plans to lasso an asteroid and land astronauts on it — and it's already testing the suits they'd be wearing on the mission. At its Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, the agency has been experimenting with a modified version of its iconic orange Advanced Crew Escape System (ACES) suit that would be suitable for the asteroid excursion.
The big, bulky Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) suits worn by astronauts on the International Space Station are simply too large for the limited space inside the Orion spacecraft that the mission would be using, so the team is trying to make the ACES suit better suited for deep space exploration, which includes making it more mobile. In the video below, you can see the modified suit being tested in an underwater environment.
"We're stepping back to our heritage to be able to use one suit for multiple tasks."
The tweaks are being made to create a suit that can be used both in and outside of the spacecraft. "We're stepping back to our heritage to be able to use one suit for multiple tasks," says crew survival systems manager Dustin Gohmert. NASA previously revealed its Buzz Lightyear-esque Z-1 spacesuit concept earlier this year, and says that it could be ready for a variety of missions as early as 2015 — but it seems that it's not quite the right fit for the asteroid mission.
NASA hopes to "identify, capture, and relocate an asteroid" for exploration by 2025.