Lunar Mission by 2024 Dimming Due to Delays in NASA’s Next-Generation Spacesuits
The first batch of U.S. astronauts to land on the moon in over 50 years may have to wait a little longer because NASA’s next-generation spacesuits will not make it in time for the scheduled 2024 mission. In a report released Tuesday, the space agency’s Office of Inspector General said the new Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit suits will not be ready until April 2025 at the earliest.
The OIG said that due, in part, to anticipated delays in spacesuit development, a lunar landing in late 2024 does not seem to be feasible. Other factors that could throw off the mission’s timetable were also mentioned, including delays in the development of the Space Launch System and the Orion and Human Landing System.
Concerning the new spacesuits, for which NASA has already spent over a billion dollars in design and development, completion is being delayed by huge budget cuts. As of June 2021, NASA had “no contingency plans if the suits are not ready,” the OIG report stated.
Pressures created by the decision to move up the Artemis moon landing date to 2024 from the original 2028 may have exacerbated problems. In March, work on a prototype spacesuit was temporarily stopped because of a component failure, NASA’s OIG further revealed.
Beyond the technical challenges, the OIG also raised concerns about NASA’s procurement strategy for the new suit.
NASA previously planned a “hybrid contract approach” where it would have a single prime contractor for integration of the suit and multiple contracts for development and sustainment. Instead, the space agency is now following a commercial services approach for spacesuits, paying to use suits developed by companies that will be encouraged but not required to use technologies developed for the xEMU, SpaceNews reported Wednesday.
Tags: Artemis Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit lunar spacesuits NASA Office of Inspector General space Space News