There aren’t a whole lot of active astronauts (46 total at NASA), but for those active at NASA today, they might be stuck on earth when their next space tours come around because NASA is running out of Spacesuits.
According to Business Insider, Astronauts have been traveling in the same suits since 1981. These suits have been repaired upon each return to earth, however they are beginning to show signs of failure, such as water leakage, that could turn fatal.
How did this happen?
NASA has spread their funds thin across three companies, each answering to a different suit serving a different function in space. Even with between 12-138 million dollars in funding, none of the three companies were able to complete a new suit. It is time for NASA to reassess, and figure out if they can work with the existing suits on repairs, or if they need a next generation suit to replace it.
One compelling opportunity that this problem brings up is that the need for competition and innovation in space apparel is already necessary. This need will only accelerate the more success we see in the private space industry. While it may be early for small businesses to begin investing tens of millions of dollars to answer NASA's current predicament, it's a sign that heading in the direction of building such capabilities is a reasonable strategy decision.
To learn more about real people who are making space suits, watch the video below featuring Final Frontier Design.*
*In 2016 I designed a product for FFD in the interest of expanding their commercial apparel business