Scott Manly says in his new video Updates - JPL Visit, Mars 2020, Moon in 5 Year, EVA Changes, Indian ASAT after about 03:25 that the EMUs that NASA uses are getting on to 40 years old.

Is he talking about the actual EMUs currently on the ISS being close to 40 years old, or is it just the design that's that old?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ After wikipedia the Extravehicular Mobility Unit was introduced 1981 and used from 1983 to 2002. The Enhanced EMU was used from 1998 to present. But 40 years ago is 1979, the contract to build the EMU was received in 1974, so the design is up to 45 years old. The currently used enhanced EMU is up to 21 years old. But suits should be left on the ISS for up to two years only. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Apr 1, 2019 at 16:17

1 Answer 1


The design was started in 1974. The first unit was complete in 1981. See this report. Note that they underwent a major change around 2000, which took 4 years to undergo all of the remaining suits. While it seems like some components of the EMU suits were recycled, many of them were not, so in many ways it is a new design.

I can't find the date the last of these was built, but I assume it was in the early 1980s. So 40 years is a bit of an exaggeration, but 30+ years is certainly the case. From the list of space suits destroyed, it would seem they manufactured them in the 1980s and have been upgrading them since, particularly since of the 18 space suits mentioned, 2 were destroyed on Challenger.

Also, they can be stored on the ISS for up to 6 years, or 25 EVAs, whichever happens first, after which time they need to be brought down and refurbished.

  • $\begingroup$ This doesn't cover the age of the actual suits that are on the ISS itself. @Uwe mentioned "suits should be left on the ISS for up to two years only"... got any info on the suits themselves-- beyond the designs' age and into the age limits of the actual object? $\endgroup$ Apr 1, 2019 at 16:36
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The actual time the suits can be left on the ISS is 6 years. The suits on the ISS are at least 20 years old, and I think parts of them are almost as old as 40 years. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Apr 1, 2019 at 16:39
  • $\begingroup$ Oh-- so wait, if they're only supposed to be up there for 6... why are the ones up there 20 years old? $\endgroup$ Apr 1, 2019 at 16:39
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ They are up for 6 years, brought down to Earth, refurbished, and sent back up. $\endgroup$
    – PearsonArtPhoto
    Apr 1, 2019 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, thank you, the "refurbished" part is what wasn't stated heh. $\endgroup$ Apr 1, 2019 at 16:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.