NASA: lunar mission in 2024 not feasible because spacesuits are not ready

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NASA’s so-called Office of Inspector General has concluded in a report that a US moon mission in 2024 is ‘not feasible’ due to a tight schedule for the new spacesuits and expected delays.

In the report concludes that a flight-worthy spacesuit is still ‘years away from completion’. NASA says it expects more than $1 billion to be spent before two spacesuits are ready for use. To date, $420 million has already been spent. This so-called xEVA Project to develop the new suits has had to deal with budget constraints, among other things. There are also ongoing difficulties and delays due to the pandemic, the full impact of which is not yet clear. NASA therefore speaks of ‘expected delays’ in the development of the spacesuits and states that the end of 2024 will not be feasible. April 2025 is cited as the most optimistic scenario; the suits will not be ready sooner, according to the space agency.

The US space agency emphasizes that these space suit problems are not the only bumps in the road to achieving the return to the moon in 2024. For example, NASA points out that previous investigations have also shown significant delays in other large, essential programs for the moon landing. This concerns, for example, the Space Launch System, the new, heavy and very expensive rocket that will be deployed. There are also concerns about the development and timing of the Orion capsule that will house the astronauts. NASA also points out that protests have been lodged against the awarding of the contract for the lander. That contract went to SpaceX. Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin had protested against this. Those objections are recent turned downbut this also has consequences for the schedule for a landing in 2024, according to NASA.

Today’s spacesuits, which can be used for spacewalks in the vacuum of space, were developed some 45 years ago for NASA’s Space Shuttle program. A new so-called EVA suit for extravehicular activity is therefore not a superfluous luxury. Elon Musk has joined the discussion with a short note that his company SpaceX could do it too. However, he did not elaborate on this. SpaceX will also have to come up with such a suit for its intended Mars mission, but that mission is still a lot further away than NASA’s planned lunar mission. SpaceX has already developed its own suits for astronauts who take a seat in the Crew Dragon to get to the ISS, but these are not EVA suits.

The orange-colored Orion Crew Survival System suit for the Orion capsule and also a prototype of what the new space suit should be. This demonstration took place in October 2019.

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