NASA’s inspector general concluded that spacesuits needed by astronauts to walk on the moon would not be ready in a moment to fulfill a 2024 lunar landing deadline. According to a report released, the next-generation spacesuit NASA is creating for the Artemis program, identified as the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), won’t be ready for flight until at least April 2025 on August 10 by NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).
According to the OIG report, “given these expected delays in spacesuit creation, a lunar landing in mid-2024 as NASA presently intends is not feasible.” However, other variables, such as disruptions in the advancement of the Space Launch System, Orion, and the Human Landing System (HLS), “will also preclude a 2024 landing,” according to the report.
The report cites several reasons for the delay, including technical issues, funding shortages, and the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects. While NASA has invested $420.1 million on the latest spacesuit models since the Constellation program began in the year 2007, and around $625 million more to finalize expansion of the xEMU, funding for the xEMU was cut by 28 percent in the fiscal year 2021 due to reduced financing for the lunar Gateway initiative, which hosts that work.
The 12-month development program reserve for xEMU was wiped out as a result of these causes. Even if lunar lander, as well as other elements of the mission, are completed, NASA now estimates that the very first two xEMU suits required for the Artemis 3 mission will not be finished until November 2024 and that they will not be prepared for flight till at least April 2025, due to time required for final launch preparations. “NASA had no contingency strategies in place if the suits were not ready by June 2021, according to the report.
The pressure put on the schedule by moving the lunar landing date from 2028 to 2024 in 2019 may have exacerbated issues. According to the report, work on the prototype suit was delayed in March due to a component failure. Schedule pressure, as well as defective communications among members of the team and the project team’s rapid growth, were all blamed by personnel.
Despite its difficulties, the xEMU suit is far ahead of the HLS, which poses its own set of challenges. According to the report, project officials are concerned that the suit project’s design assumptions about the lander may be incorrect. Last year, the suit’s mass budget was reduced from 186.6kgs to 177.1 kilograms, forcing the venture to redesign suit components to accommodate the lower mass.