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Lunar Dust Mitigation: EVA Suit Coverings


In preparation for humans returning to the lunar surface in 2024, one problem that can’t be overlooked is the abrasive effect that lunar regolith (basaltic particulate on the lunar surface) has on astronaut equipment. Its destructive nature damages space suits and other critical mission equipment. Mitigating this problem will ensure longer Extravehicular Activity (EVA) time for astronauts, leading to valuable data collection for the benefit of all mankind. 

It was determined by the team that the best solution to this problem was to design custom, disposable coverings that prevent damage to crucial joints from regolith abrasion and contamination. During the Apollo Moon landings, astronauts tried many different methods to remove regolith from the outside of the spacesuit. However, the regolith carries a high electric charge that causes it to adhere to every surface. Due to its adhesive and abrasive properties, there is no quick and easy way to remove the regolith from the suit. 

The material and attachment methods of these coverings have undergone in-depth testing with lunar dust simulant to ensure no dust  penetration/abrasion in harsh lunar environments.  Our design adds a level of protection not previously seen before, ensuring the sensitive areas and equipment under the coverings remain pristine.

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Team Members

  • Rachel Carey
  • Allan Huntington
  • Jered Kennedy
  • Charles O’Brien
  • Daniel Wolff

The Client

  • Lockheed Martin


Project Advisors:

Leslie Light

Sue Anderson

Technical Advisors:

Apollo 17 Astronaut Harrison Schmidt

Dr. Angel Abbud-Madrid

Shuttle Astronaut Dr. James Voss

Donations Made by: Lockheed Martin



Elevator Pitch

We are a senior design team of 5 mechanical engineering students who started in August 2020 and worked eight months to design, develop, and test dust coverings for astronauts during Lunar EVA for the Artemis Moon Landings. The senior design project was inspired by the work of one of the team members during his internship at Lockheed Martin. One of the managers and fellow colleagues took interest and served as the client for the project. This unique design challenge provided students with the opportunity to work closely with a distinguished company to further human exploration of the Moon.

Many aspects of this project were new to the team members, requiring them to explore previous methods used during the Apollo moon landings. Following this research, the students had to learn and develop new design methodologies, testing procedures, networking with other universities, and take on a design-build-test mentality to accomplish the project constraints.  Through this work, the team’s design seeks to improve and prolong EVA time while on the lunar surface. By creating a covering that is disposable and non-intrusive, the protected regions of the spacesuit should see prolonged life and safety.

Design Approach

The project first began with an initial research phase in which the team became familiar with lunar regolith and its properties as well as the threat it posed on the Apollo missions. This deep dive into research explored methods that were used on the Apollo moon missions to mitigate the transfer and retention of dust on the spacesuits. On the missions, the astronauts only tried to remove dust from their spacesuits after returning from the extravehicular activity (EVA). These methods were proven ineffective and took up valuable EVA time that could have otherwise been used to explore our closest celestial body.  Our solutions looks at providing a disposable cover to protect the sensitive areas of the spacesuit without the need for extra equipment.

This solution has never been done before, and as such the team adopted a design-build-test-redesign methodology. Throughout the project, multiple rounds and forms of testing were conducted. One set of testing was focused on material selection with the use of a lunar dust simulant. These tests sought to quantify the amount of dust that adheres to different materials, the permeability properties of fabrics, and the ability for the attachment methods of the covering to isolate against dust. In tandem to this testing, prototypes were created and iterated upon through mobility testing. For this testing, a partnership was created between the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Colorado Boulder. The prototypes created by the team were put onto CU’s mock xEMU spacesuit and tested for their ease of donning and doffing. Quantitative data was recorded for the force it took to remove the prototypes from the spacesuit. Every component of the coverings including the fabric material and the Velcro experienced its own testing.

Design Solution

Through lab testing and trials with the CU xEMU suit, the team settled upon using Velcro as a method to both secure and remove the coverings. These prototypes proved to have easier and faster application to the suit than the alternative solutions. The biggest burden imposed by other designs was the challenge in slipping the boots through the already secured covering. Velcro gave the added flexibility allowing the design to be wrapped around the legs and arms. One-inch overlap in Velcro proved to be effective at preventing dust from being able to penetrate the coverings, while still being removed easily. To hold the coverings snug on the suit, one-inch woven elastic is sewn into the coverings on either end. Through testing with lunar dust simulant, this elastic proved to isolate the covered areas of the suit from dust.


For material, the most important property studied is the permeability of dust through the fabric. The material that showed no penetration while still being light weight and not impeding suit movement is Nomex. Nomex is a material developed by Dupont that has peak thermal and fire protection properties. The material is currently in use as a key protective layer in military and NASA flight suits. To meet the NASA requirements for the optical properties on suit materials, a light color of fabric must be used. The lightest material color that the team was able to source in small quantities was cream. Ideally, this would be the same color as the rest of the arms and legs of the suit: white.

The technical drawings shown below display dimensions that give a snug fit for the coverings onto the arms and legs of the suits. These dimensions are based upon the CU xEMU suit and would require alteration to fit the suit of the exact astronaut wearing the coverings. The coverings for the arms of the suit include one pull tab that the astronaut will be able to insert their thumb into for removal. The leg coverings include two pull tabs as a redundancy to ensure removal despite the increased difficulty when compared to the arms.


Next Steps

In order to achieve an optimized solution, further material testing is required to ensure that the prototype materials meet the specifications set forth by NASA. Additionally, continued development of the dust isolation testing is encouraged. During the limited design scope of the Senior Design process, the team struggled to develop a rigid methodology for isolation testing to achieve quantitative results. Being able to accurately quantify the amount of lunar regolith that penetrates through the material, elastic, and velcro is of the upmost importance.

Following the final testing at CU Boulder, the team recommends a design that involves both the ripwire and velcro. The biggest challenge with the current design is the difficulty in removal of the leg coverings. The leg coverings were easily removed with the ripwire during initial mobility testing. However, difficulty was found in getting them to go over the attached boots of the suit. Combining velcro and ripwire allows for an easy application and removal.

Meet the Team

Charles O'Brien

I have lived my whole life in Colorado and in the Mines community! Every member of my family is a Mines alum, so needless to say I was very excited to join the family. I am currently majoring in mechanical engineering and also working on my graduate degree. I am a total space nerd and love all things space. I currently work at Lockheed Martin on the GPS satellite program as a mechanical design engineer. Outside of school and work, you can catch me under the stars doing astrophotography.

Rachel Carey
I was born and raised in New Mexico, but I’m making Colorado my new home! In my free time, I enjoy playing recreational sports, watching Rockies games, and going to breweries with friends.
Allan Huntington

Originally from Northern Nevada, I’m someone with a passion for everything robotics. Pursuing my master’s degree in mechatronics, and spending my free time building computers, hiking, cycling, and rock climbing, I’m always excited to explore new avenues of engineering, in both my personal and academic life.

Daniel Wolff

I will be graduating this semester with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. I have also been fascinated by space exploration and am ecstatic about the initiative to send humans back to the moon and beyond. Following graduation, I will be moving to Sothern California to work as a construction engineer.

Jered Kennedy

I am a senior in Mechanical Engineering set to graduate this spring. I will be pursuing a Masters in Thermal Fluid and Energy System at Mines in the fall. In my free time, I like to ski, hike, skateboard, and hangout with friends. I had a great time working on this project and am thankful for such a wonderful team!