We now know what NASA’s next moonwalkers will wear.
NASA announced Wednesday (Sept. 7) that it has selected the Houston-based company Axiom Space to build the moon spacesuits for Artemis 3, a mission that aims to land astronauts near the moon’s south pole in 2025 or 2026.
Artemis 3 will achieve the first manned landing on the moon since the final Apollo flight in 1972, if all goes according to plan. And NASA plans to keep going back with its Artemis programsetting up a manned outpost on Earth’s closest neighbor by the end of the 2020s.
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“NASA is proud to partner with the commercial industry on this historic mission that will kickstart the United States to establish a lasting presence on the surface of the moon,” Lara Kearney, manager of NASA’s Extravehicular Activity and Human Surface Mobility program, said in a statement (opens in new tab).
“What we learn about Artemis 3 and future missions on and around the moon will pave the way for missions to Mars,” added Kearney. “Space suits allow us to literally take that next step.”
In June of this year, NASA has announced that it had selected Axiom and a team led by Collins Aerospace to develop and build spacesuits for future missions to the Moon and the International Space Station. The two private teams earned the right to compete until 2034 for a total of $3.5 billion.
That money will be distributed through a series of ‘task assignments’. The newly announced Artemis 3 price is one such order and has a base value of $228.5 million.
“Drawing on more than 50 years of space suit experience, NASA has defined the technical and safety requirements for the next generation of spacesuits. Axiom Space will be responsible for the design, development, qualification, certification and manufacturing of its spacesuits and support equipment that will meet these key agency requirements for Artemis 3,” agency officials said in Wednesday’s statement.
“NASA experts will retain authority over astronaut training, mission planning and service systems approval,” she added. “Axiom Space will have to test the suits in a space-like environment before Artemis 3.”
A future task sequence will cover subsequent manned Artemis missions, NASA officials said.
NASA hasn’t launched any Artemis missions yet, but that should change soon. The agency is gearing up for the next launch attempt of Artemis 1who will send the agency’s Orion pod on an unmanned journey to lunar orbit and back.
NASA tried to launch Artemis 1 on August 29 and September 3, but scrubbed both attempts due to technical problems. The agency has not yet announced a target date for the next attempt.
Mike Wall is the author of “Outside (opens in new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).