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June 24, 2024

NASA Delays First Artemis Moon Landings to 2026

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Jan 12, 2024

NASA has announced that the first Artemis lunar landings with astronauts will be delayed by over a year to 2026 due to technical issues and timeline challenges for the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft.

Lead Up to Artemis Missions

The Artemis program is NASA’s plan to return humans to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo program ended in 1972. Artemis 1 launched the first Orion spacecraft around the Moon without astronauts in late 2022. Artemis 2 was scheduled to fly astronauts around the Moon in 2024, followed by Artemis 3 landing the first woman and next man on the lunar surface in 2025.

However, NASA has been facing delays with development of the key components needed for the missions:

  • The Space Launch System (SLS) – A powerful new rocket designed to launch Orion. SLS has faced multiple delays and cost overruns during development.
  • Orion spacecraft – The crew capsule that will transport astronauts to lunar orbit and the lunar surface. Concerns were raised about its heat shield.
  • Spacesuits – NASA is developing new spacesuits for lunar exploration, but they won’t be ready in time for a 2025 landing.
  • SpaceX Starship – A lunar lander variant of Starship will transport crew from Orion to the surface and back. But Starship is still early in development with major testing ahead.

Additionally, legal battles over the lunar lander contract with SpaceX further delayed NASA’s timeline late last year before ultimately being resolved.

Revised Mission Schedule

With all these factors combined, NASA performed an extensive review of the Artemis schedule and announced the following timeline changes on January 9th, 2024:

Mission Original Date New Date
Artemis 2 Crewed Orion Flight Around Moon May 2024 September 2025
Artemis 3 Crewed Landing 2025 September 2026
Artemis 4+ Additional Landing Missions 2026+ 2027+

So the eagerly awaited return of astronauts to the lunar surface is now delayed to at least September 2026, marking over 60 years since humans last walked on the Moon during Apollo 17.

Reasons for Schedule Slippage

NASA outlined several reasons for moving the target dates:

Orion Spacecraft & Safety Concerns

  • Technical issues were uncovered with the Orion spacecraft that need to be addressed before flying astronauts
  • More time is required to test and qualify Orion’s heat shield for safe lunar returns
  • Avionics, software, and other systems still need work to meet NASA’s specifications

Lack of Spacesuit Readiness

  • Development & testing of new astronaut spacesuits for the lunar surface are significantly behind schedule
  • NASA says existing spacesuit designs risk the Artemis 3 landing goal

SpaceX Starship Delays

  • Multiple Starship test failures have set back its development
  • NASA wants to see a successful orbital refueling test before human certification
  • Pushing Artemis 3 landing date allows more time for Starship to complete dev program

Need for Additional Ground System Testing

  • More end-to-end integrated testing required across SLS, Orion, ground systems
  • Teams need practice running rehearsal missions to build operational confidence

Impact and Path Forward

The excitement surrounding returning to the Moon will have to wait another year or more. NASA says the extra time will allow the challenges outlined above to be addressed while still keeping safety a top priority.

There is still plenty to look forward to before boots are back on the lunar surface:

  • Artemis 2 – The first Orion test flight with astronauts remains a monumental achievement even if delayed to September 2025.
  • Gateway Progress – Assembly of the Lunar Gateway space station will continue, giving a staging ground for missions.
  • Astronaut Crew Selection – NASA plans to name the Artemis team of astronauts later this year.
  • More Moon Rovers – Commercial rovers will provide robotic scouting missions to the planned landing sites.
  • Tools & Experiment Delivery – Landing various science payloads will help prepare for crewed missions.

While NASA progresses on the path to regularly re-establishing a human presence on the Moon, the agency says Mars remains the ultimate horizon goal. They believe pushing forward sustainable deep space exploration today brings that red planet dream closer to reality tomorrow.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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