Apr 27, 2017 04:05 AM EDT
NASA has finally moved forward with an announcement that they want to send astronauts to Mars in 2030s. In the next few decades, NASA will take steps toward establishing the human presence beyond Earth, not just to visit but to stay. NASA trains astronauts before they can go to space but one key factor still remains there, which is spacesuit.
An audit report confirmed that U.S space agency has spent $200 million on NASA's spacesuit. The U.S and European astronauts will wear these white bulky spacesuits when they wave outside the space station for spacewalks. This spacesuit is also called Extra Vehicular Mobility Unit or EMU and its design is essentially unchanged for the past 40 years.
In addition, each suit has been rearranged over the years with some new features like glove warmers, improved helmet cameras, and lights. But sometimes these suites have caused many problems such as water leaking inside the helmets. One such incident happened in 2013 when the helmet of Italian spacewalker Luca Parmitano's suit began filling with water, an emergency that risked drowning him.
On that time he quickly ended his spacewalk and returned to the space station, reported by Mail Online. Experts claimed that NASA's current spacesuit would not be suitable for a deep space walk. According to astronauts, next generation suit will need to have better shields, more flexible hip section and also need stronger radiation protection.
According to Phys.org, a program called constellation was canceled during Barack Obama's admiration. A report suggested that NASA still continued fund to the constellation program after the contract was concluded. For new generation spacesuit, NASA paid the contractor $80.8 million between 2011 and 2016.
Furthermore, NASA has been spent $51 million for Advance Spacesuit project and $12 million on the Orion Crew Survival System, both suits could be worn into deep space. These suits would need to be tested on the ISS prior to 2024. But the prototype model will not enough mature to test.
On the other hand, Orion Crew Survival System spacesuit is ready as planned by March 2021. Finally, the audit suggests NASA come up with a "formal plan for design, production, and testing" that aligns with the goals of the US space agency. They also called the experts for studies to compare the cost of maintaining the current spacesuit and developing and testing a next-generation spacesuit.