NASA’s plan to take the first woman and the next man to the Moon in 2024 will be delayed, as there is a significant delay in the development of special suits known as the Expeditionary Vehicle Mobility Unit (xEMU).
The August 10 Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report by the OIG Office of Audit indicates that the Artemis claims will not be ready by the specified date.
“NASA’s current schedule is to produce the first two xEMUs by November 2024, but the agency faces significant challenges in achieving that goal,” so they add: “A moon landing in late 2024, as NASA is currently planning, is not feasible.”
The report also noted the importance of xEMUs: “The development of new spacesuits is a critical component to achieving NASA’s goals of returning humans to the Moon, continuing safe operations on the International Space Station (ISS), and exploration of Mars and other deep space locations.”
NASA has been working on the new suits for nearly 14 years, the suits currently worn by astronauts were designed 45 years ago for the space shuttle program.
The report notes that one factor causing the delay was the budget: “In 2017, we reported that despite spending nearly $200 million on development, for nine years the agency had been without a spacesuit ready for exploration missions. Since then, Then in our 2017 report, NASA spent an additional $220 million, totaling $420 million, on developing xEMUs.”
Other factors also mentioned in the report, “These delays, attributable to funding shortfalls, COVID-19 impacts and technical challenges, left no scheduling margin for the delivery of the two flight-ready xEMUs.” , so they gave an estimated delivery date: “The suits will be ready to fly until April 2025.”
After the report was released, SpaceX founder Elon Musk suggested that his company could support NASA to get the suits ready on time.
The businessman responded to a post by reporter Michael Sheetz in which he discussed the problems with spacesuits. “SpaceX can do that if needed,” Musk replied.
To return to the Earth’s natural satellite, NASA is working on the SLS rocket and the Orion spacecraft, which also has a delay, however, it is not very dangerous and it is expected that by the end of 2021 it will launch Artemis I to fly around the moon without a crew.
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