On Tuesday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced to delay putting astronauts back on the moon until 2025 at the earliest and missed the deadline previously set by the Trump government. Instead, the U.S. space agency targeted 2024 for the first moon landing by astronauts in around fifty years.
During the announcement, Bill Nelson, the NASA Administrator, said that Congress didn’t provide enough funds to develop a landing system for its Artemis moon program and more funds needed to build its Orion capsule. Moreover, NASA is also facing a legal challenge by Jeff Bezos’ company, Blue Origin, due to which it delayed work for some months on the Starship lunar landing system under development by SpaceX.
NASA administrator Bill Nelson says the Artemis II mission, the first to carry astronauts, is targeting May 2024.
Artemis III, the program’s first crewed lunar landing, is delaying to no earlier than 2025.
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Officials said they also need to enhance the technology for new spacesuits before astronauts return to the moon. The space agency is still aiming next February for the initial test flight of its moon rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), along with an Orion capsule. After that, NASA astronauts will fasten in for the 2nd Artemis space flight, flying outside the moon but not landing in 2024, one year later than planned. According to Nelson, that would bump the astronaut moon landing to at least 2025.
When was the last astronaut’s lunar landing of NASA?
Nelson told reporters that the human landing system is a key part of the agency’s work to get the first woman and the first man of color to the lunar surface. Further, he adds that NASA is devoted to helping restore the standing of the United States in the world. He also noted the aggressive and striving space program of China and warned that it could overtake America in lunar exploration.
The last astronaut’s lunar landing of NASA occurred during Apollo 17 (NASA’s final Moon landing mission) in 1972. Twelve astronauts explored the lunar surface. In 2019, during a National Space Council meeting, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence called for landing astronauts on the lunar surface within five years by any means necessary. NASA had been projecting for a moon landing in 2028. Congress will need to raise funding for the project, starting with the 2023 national budget, for NASA to have private firms for the projected ten or more astronauts’ moon landings.
NASA is also demanding a bigger budget for its Orion capsules, from $6.7 billion to $9.3 billion, quoting delays during the COVID-19 pandemic and storm damage to the Michoud Assembly Facility of NASA in New Orleans, the key manufacturing site for Orion and SLS. The cost of development for the rocket through the first Artemis flight in 2022 stands at eleven billion dollars.
Kamala Harris, the United States Vice President, will organize her primary National Space Council summit, as its chair, on 1st December. Nelson said that he updated the vice president on the new costs and schedule during their visit to Goddard Space Flight Center of Maryland on Friday.