NASA's Artemis mission is set to land astronauts back on the Moon by 2024, but a new report suggests that this time frame is impossible to achieve. NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin said in a new report that the space agency's lunar landing project is "not feasible" because of the delays in developing spacesuits.
He noted that the spacesuits would not be ready for the flight not until April 2025 at the earliest, even if NASA would spend more than $1 billion on the next-generation spacesuits.
Delays in Making the Spacesuit
The Artemis mission's goal is to send back astronauts on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972. It was scheduled to send a crewed lunar landing in 2024, a deadline that President Biden's administration deemed unrealistic.
As reported by The Verge, NASA already spent $40 million on developing a spacesuit since 2007 even before the Artemis program and plans to spend approximately $625.2 million more until 2025. Its design and purpose gradually change over the years as the space agency teeters between administrations.
The latest one in development was called the xEMU that was unveiled in 2019. Meanwhile, spacesuits being used by astronauts in the International Space Station (ISS) are restrictive, outdated, and cannot be used for long walks on the Moon.
Despite allotting 12 months of wiggle room for possible delays on the Artemis mission in 2024, the schedule margin has already disappeared due to funding shortfalls, closures of ASA centers because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and technical problems.
The space agency originally contracted the Hamilton Standard and ILC Dover to build the spacesuits that astronauts use in the ISS. But now, 27 different entities are pitching to build the next-generation spacesuit for NASA
Elon Musk posted on Twitter in response to the news that it seems like there are too many cooks in the kitchen and his company, SpaceX, could do it if NASA needs them to be. SpaceX is currently developing new spacesuits for their commercial space flights, which government astronauts have used aboard the company's Crew Dragon capsule on their mission to ISS.
Four Recommendations to Ensure Successful Development of xEMU Spacesuit
According to CNN, the inspector general's report presented four recommendations to make sure that the development of the xEMU spacesuit is completed. It included adjusting the schedule to reduce developments risks and developing an integrated master schedule for hardware and training needs.
Moreover, the report also recommends making sure that technical requirements are met for developing the spacesuits before choosing the acquisition strategy that meets the needs of both ISS and Artemis missions.
NASA management agreed with the recommendations of the inspector general's report and has already placed plans to address them. A letter from NASA's Associate Administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate Kathryn Leuders said they intend to conduct a demonstration before the first crewed Artemis mission is launched.
NASA also said they are evaluating the current budget and schedule for Artemis missions and will release an update later this year.
Check out more news and information on the Artemis Mission in Science Times.