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NASA picks spacesuit maker for 1st Artemis moonwalkers

Artist's impression of two spacesuited astronauts working on the moon.
Artist's impression of two spacesuited astronauts working on the moon. (Image credit: NASA)

We now know what NASA's next moonwalkers will be wearing.

NASA announced Wednesday (Sept. 7) that it has selected Houston company Axiom Space to build the moon spacesuits for Artemis 3, a mission that aims to land astronauts near the lunar south pole in 2025 or 2026.

Artemis 3 will achieve the first crewed landing on the moon since the final Apollo flight in 1972, if all goes according to plan. And NASA intends to keep going back with its Artemis program, setting up a crewed outpost on Earth's nearest neighbor by the end of the 2020s.

Related: The evolution of the spacesuit in pictures

"NASA is proud to partner with commercial industry on this historic mission that will kickstart the United States building 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 on Artemis 3 and future missions on and around the moon will pave the way for missions to Mars," Kearney added. "Spacesuits enable us to literally take that next step."

In June of this year, NASA 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 for a total of up to $3.5 billion through 2034.

That money will be doled out via a series of "task orders." The newly announced Artemis 3 award is one such order, and it has a base value of $228.5 million. 

"Using more than 50 years of spacesuit expertise, NASA defined the technical and safety requirements for the next generation of spacesuits. Axiom Space will be responsible for the design, development, qualification, certification and production 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 maintain the authority for astronaut training, mission planning and approval of the service systems," they added. "Axiom Space will be required to test the suits in a spacelike environment before Artemis 3."

A future task order will cover subsequent crewed Artemis missions, NASA officials said.

NASA has not yet launched any Artemis missions, but that should change soon. The agency is gearing up for the next launch attempt of Artemis 1, which will send the agency's Orion capsule on an uncrewed trip to lunar orbit and back.

NASA tried to launch Artemis 1 on Aug. 29 and Sept. 3 but scrubbed both attempts due to technical issues. The agency has not yet announced a target date for the next try.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien 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).  

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com (opens in new tab) and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.