A new partnership is taking the concept of haute couture to new heights.
Axiom Space, a Houston-based spaceflight services company, has joined forces with the Italian luxury fashion house Prada to design the spacesuits for the next astronauts to walk on the moon.
"We are thrilled to partner with Prada on the Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit (AxEMU) spacesuit," Michael Suffredini, CEO of Axiom, said in a statement. "Prada's technical expertise with raw materials, manufacturing techniques and innovative design concepts will bring advanced technologies instrumental in ensuring not only the comfort of astronauts on the lunar surface, but also the much-needed human factors considerations absent from legacy spacesuits."
In 2022, NASA selected Axiom Space to build and operate the spacesuits that its Artemis 3 crew members will wear when making the first lunar landing since the Apollo missions more than 50 years ago. By direction of the White House, the mission will include a woman among the moonwalking crew and will mark the first time humans have landed at and explored the lunar south pole.
Prada's engineers will work with Axiom's team to identify materials and develop features to protect against the challenges presented by the lunar environment.
"Our decades of experimentation, cutting-edge technology and design know-how ... will now be applied to the design of a spacesuit for the Artemis era. It is a true celebration of the power of human creativity and innovation to advance civilization," said Lorenzo Bertelli, Prada's marketing director. "We are honored to be a part of this historic mission with Axiom Space."
Axiom debuted its first prototype for the AxEMU in March. The suit's proprietary technology and design elements were kept under cover by a custom outer layer created by costume designer Esther Marquis from the Apple TV+ alternate Apollo history series "For All Mankind." Marquis' black, orange and blue garment was then adapted to fly into space as the spacesuit for "GiGi," a plush Build-A-Bear toy that served as the "zero-g indicator" on Axiom's second commercial mission to the International Space Station in May.
In releasing the news about Prada, Axiom also provided a first look at its current white cover layer, which, at least in color, will be closer to what the astronauts will wear on the moon.
The AxEMU will provide astronauts from NASA and its international partners with advanced capabilities for space exploration, while offering NASA commercially developed human systems needed to access, live and work on and around the moon. Evolving NASA's Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) spacesuit design, the spacesuits Axiom has designed before the Prada partnership were created to provide increased flexibility, greater protection to withstand the harsh environment and specialized tools for exploration and scientific opportunities.
With Prada as a partner, Axiom thinks its AxEMU spacesuits will enable greater exploration of the lunar surface than ever before.
Axiom Space is the latest company to partner with a fashion designer to help with its spacesuit development. SpaceX collaborated with Marvel and DC superhero costume designer Jose Fernandez on the look and construction of its Dragon pressure garments. Virgin Galactic partnered with Under Armour to create the line of clothing that SpaceShipTwo passengers wear while flying. And Boeing worked with the athletic-apparel company Reebok to develop the boots that astronauts will wear on the space station-bound CST-100 Starliner spacecraft.
In addition to Axiom Space, NASA also selected Collins Aerospace to design and build lunar spacesuits for future Artemis moon missions. Both companies are also charged with creating spacesuits for use outside of the International Space Station and at other, future low Earth orbit destinations.
Get the Space.com Newsletter
Breaking space news, the latest updates on rocket launches, skywatching events and more!
Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.