NASA is already packing for its next Moon landing, and it’s ordering some new spacesuits for the trip. It has awarded a $228.5 million contract to Axiom Space to make a “moonwalking system” for the agency’s return trip to the lunar surface, NASA announced Wednesday.
Axiom was one of two companies in the running to make spacesuits for NASA’s Artemis program, which is aiming to send astronauts back to the Moon for the first time in more than 50 years. NASA already has a limited supply of spacesuits for use on the International Space Station, but lunar spacesuits will have to be very different. In addition to extreme temperature swings, they’ll have to contend with the Moon’s gravity and the notoriously problematic lunar dust that has a tendency to stick to everything.
NASA had been working on its own Moon spacesuits and unveiled the works-in-progress in 2019. But last year, a report found that the development of those suits was delayed and that they wouldn’t be ready in time for the planned lunar landing. Instead, in June, NASA announced that it had decided to outsource the development of its lunar spacesuit to two companies: Collins Aerospace, which has experience building spacesuits for NASA, and Axiom Space.
NASA plans to use Axiom’s spacesuits on the future Artemis III mission, which will land the first woman on the Moon. But first, the agency needs to get the Artemis I mission off the ground. That mission, which will send an uncrewed capsule out past the Moon, will serve as a test mission for future flights, including Artemis III. It has been repeatedly delayed.