NASA missions under threat because of astronaut shortage — Analysis

US Space Agency has been advised that its astronaut corps may be insufficient to fulfill its future requirements.

NASA has enough astronauts to meet “the current needs” of International Space Station missions but might soon discover that it lacks a “sufficient number of additional astronauts” for future projects.

According to NASA’s Office of Inspector General report, the astronaut corps is projected to fall below its targeted size or “minimum manifest requirement” in 2022 and 2023 due to astronauts retiring and “Additional space flight manifest requirements.” Currently 44 astronauts strong, the corps is named “The 20-year-old astronaut who was the youngest in the world,” and that’s while NASA is preparing for its Artemis moon exploration missions.

The analysis, conducted by the Audit Office, shows that the number of astronauts in the 2022 fiscal year would “We have exactly the same number of flight manifest seat(s)” NASA will need.

The Agency might not be able to provide enough astronauts for crew reassignments and unanticipated losses. It may also have difficulties with having sufficient personnel available for ground positions such as program development, liaison and leadership roles in the Astronaut Office, or speaking on behalf of the Agency.,” the report warns.

With a planned increase in the number of space flights in the framework of Artemis missions, the staff shortages at NASA might result in “Disruptive crew reorganizations and mission delays,” the auditors said.

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The space agency already has ten potential personnel shortages that have prompted them to recruit new astronaut recruits. The two-year course began in January.

However, an astronaut shortage wasn’t the only issue highlighted by the auditors. NASA may also be facing a skills shortage. The report states that “To be capable of carrying out Artemis missions effectively, the skill set composition within the corps might need to change.” noting that “The data on the skillset of astronauts isn’t consistently collected or organized in a comprehensive manner. It also doesn’t get regularly updated or monitored.

Therefore, the Office of Inspector General has come up with four recommendations on how to “better support the sizing and alignment of the astronaut corps, and to help inform recruiting and training of astronauts to fulfill NASA’s strategic goals.” 

The recommendations include improvements in monitoring detailed astronaut data, planning training processes, and developing specific training regimens “Artemis Mission needs to be aligned.”

NASA’s management has accepted all of the recommendations.

In recent years, the moon exploration program has been revived. NASA is getting ready for the maiden launch of its moon rocket in March – the Space Launch System with an uncrewed Orion capsule – and aims to resume human landings in 2024 and 2025. 

The Russian space agency Roscosmos’ Luna 25 lander, previously known as Luna-Glob, is scheduled to launch from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in July 2022 on a Soyuz-2.1b rocket with a Fregat upper stage. China’s recent lunar missions have been successful, and India will launch this year the Chandrayaan-3 landing mission.

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