It looks like NASA has new problems with its Artemis program, in which the United States wants to return to the moon.
The program assumes such a launch in 2024. However, according to a report from the Office of Inspector General (OIG), NASA will not be able to meet the deadline. And the reason for this is the new spacesuits.
New Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) suits are being developed for the Artemis mission. The current spacesuits that American astronauts use on flights to the ISS have developed 45 years ago, so they need to be replaced. And NASA has been working on this for the past 14 years.
However, the report says that, despite such an impressive time frame, there are problems with the development process.
In 2017, we reported that while nearly $ 200 million had been spent on the development of the spacesuit over the previous nine-year period, it took the agency more years to have a flight-ready spacesuit that could be used on research missions. Since that report, an additional $ 220 million has been spent, that is, a total of $ 420 million has already been spent on the development of the spacesuit.
At the same time, NASA plans to invest another $ 625.2 million in the project, bringing the total cost to more than $ 1 billion. And OIG believes the agency won't be able to meet the deadline. Moreover, the report says that this is not possible at all.
The audit points to a more than 20-month delay in the development of the suits and the creation of two prototypes.
These delays due to funding shortfalls, Covid-19 exposure, and technical issues left no headroom on schedule for the delivery of two ready-to-fly xEMUs.
As part of this review, OIG made four recommendations to NASA's junior administrator in the Office of Flight Research and Operations.
These recommendations suggest that NASA will adjust its moon landing schedule as appropriate to reduce development risks develop a common schedule for all of its various programs (eg Gateway, Artemis, ISS, and others); fix all the technical requirements for the suits before moving on, and develop a procurement strategy for suits that meets the needs of the Artemis and ISS programs.
According to this audit, even with a total projected cost of more than $ 1 billion for these new suits, there are too many delays and obstacles for NASA to reach its target of landing on the moon by 2024.
Interestingly, Elon Musk reacted to the report, who wrote in his usual laconic form: "SpaceX can do this if necessary." Apparently, he was referring to the development of a spacesuit.