NASA is already packing for its upcoming moon landing and ordering 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 on Wednesday.
Axiom was one of two companies competing to make spacesuits for NASA’s Artemis program, which aims 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 deal with the Moon’s gravity and the notoriously troublesome moondust that tends to stick to everything.
NASA had been working on its own lunar spacesuits and unveiled the work-in-progress in 2019. But last year, a report found that development of those suits was behind schedule and they wouldn’t be ready in time for the planned moon 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.
Axiom previously arranged for the first completely private crew to be sent to the International Space Station on a SpaceX rocket. The company’s long-term goals include construction of a commercial space station.
NASA plans to use the Axiom spacesuits on the future Artemis III mission, which will take the first woman to the Moon. But first, the agency needs to get the Artemis I mission off the ground. That mission, which will send an unmanned capsule beyond the Moon, will serve as a test mission for future flights, including Artemis III. It has been delayed repeatedly.