NASA’s current fleet of spacesuits were reported to cost between $15 million and $22 million in 1974.
Having not built any new mission-ready extravehicular suits since then, NASA only has four working suits left.
Since 2009, NASA has invested more than $200 million in spacesuit development.
Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: This spacesuit, built in 1974, was reported to cost between $15 million and $22 million. Today, that would be about $150 million. Having not delivered any new mission-ready extravehicular suits since then, NASA is running out of spacesuits. In fact, NASA are down to just four flight-ready EVA suits.
Since 2009, NASA has invested more than $200 million in spacesuit development, recently unveiling the xEMU prototype. But NASA still does not have a new fleet of spacesuits.
So why has it taken so long for new spacesuits to be built? And what makes them so expensive?
Cathleen Lewis: Spacesuits are so expensive because they’re complex, human-shaped spacecraft. Think about them in terms of spacecraft, not as work clothes. A spacesuit has to protect an astronaut from the vacuum of space, from radiation coming from the sun and other bodies, and it has to protect against fast-traveling particles that are traveling up to 18,000 miles an hour that could penetrate the suit. They provide oxygen, communications, telemetry, and everything else that a human needs to survive, all rolled into one tiny, human-formed spacecraft.
Narrator: But the spacesuits NASA currently uses are more than 40 years old.
18 suits were developed for the Space Shuttle program in 1974 and have vastly overworked their original 15-year-life design. Suit No. 1 was only used for certification, while suit two was destroyed during ground testing. Two suits were lost in the Challenger disaster in 1986, and another two in the Columbia disaster in 2003. The most recent spacesuit loss was unit 17, during SpaceX-7’s cargo-mission mishap. The exact cost to replace this unit is unknown, but estimates range as high as $250 million. For the remaining 11 suits, the damage is mounting, with seven in various stages of refurbishment and maintenance. That leaves only four flight-ready spacesuits aboard the International Space Station.
In fact, NASA’s first all-female spacewalk was postponed because the space station had only one medium-sized suit. This milestone was finally achieved when NASA sent up a medium-torso shell to fit the existing larger suit.
NASA has invested about a quarter of a billion dollars developing the xEMU suit for its Artemis program, which plans to take humans back to the surface of the moon by 2024, with a view to eventually go to Mars. With that goal fast approaching and the number of existing spacesuits dwindling, NASA engineers face a new kind of space race.
Jesse Buffington: There is absolutely a sense of urgency, not only because of the number of suits itself is relatively small, but the individual components that we use to keep the suits healthy and moving forward is also dwindling. A great example of that is the carbon …read more
Source:: Business Insider