NASA has announced that it will not be able to return humans to the Moon by 2024 as planned. Instead, the plan will be pushed back and cannot take place earlier than 2025
Previously, under President Donald Trump, the US set a goal to return American astronauts to the Moon by 2024 in the Artemis program. However, the program was delayed in many stages, from space costumes to spacecraft.
NASA has been sued by billionaire Jeff Bezos’ company Blue Origin, after billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX company won a contract to build a lunar lander in the program.
“We’ve spent almost seven months in litigation, and that likely made it impossible to land a human on the Moon earlier than 2025,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said.
According to Nelson, there is a high possibility that China can put a man on the Moon before the American astronauts return. The lawsuit against Blue Origin stems from NASA’s pick this year. Specifically, billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk both want their companies to be at the center of their plans to send astronauts back to the Moon.
However, NASA only has enough funding for one of them. In the end, NASA decided to choose Elon Musk’s company SpaceX. Meanwhile, Blue Organ of billionaire Jeff Bezos opposes this decision because he thinks that NASA favors SpaceX.
In addition, other factors that led to the delay in planning included a lack of funding for the development of the landing system. To meet the goals of the Artemis program, Bill Nelson said, a number of changes are needed including the need to significantly increase funding. Recently, the Federal Court announced it had ruled in favor of NASA. That means progress on the Artemis program can continue.
During the course of the lawsuit, NASA was asked not to have any contact with SpaceX regarding the development of the landing system for the Artemis astronauts. However, SpaceX has continued to develop their own lander without any payment from NASA
To meet the goals of the Artemis program, Director Nelson announced a number of changes, including the need to significantly increase funding, starting with the 2023 budget.
The budget will lay the groundwork for more than 10 future Moon landings. Mr. Nelson also shared, NASA needs to develop and upgrade the Orion spacecraft at $9.3 billion, up from the original $6.7 billion in 2012.
The Orion-SLS duo will carry out the first mission of the program – the Artemis I mission, an unmanned flight around the Moon. Artemis I will also carry 10 small satellites on its journey to Earth’s natural satellite.
These satellites perform a variety of missions after their deployment from the Orion spacecraft. For example, the BioSentinel satellite will study the effects of deep space radiation on yeast DNA.
Meanwhile, the Near-Earth Asteroid Scout approaches a space rock using the Sun sail. After that, Artemis II will be the crewed flyby of the Moon, and Artemis III will return the astronauts to the lunar surface at the South Pole.
The timeline for further mission launches depends on Artemis I. The schedule changes will also result in the Artemis II launch being delayed to May 2024, Mr. Nelson said.
Previously, Artemis II was scheduled to launch in April 2023. The NASA director also revealed that the crewed landing will be done before the unmanned landing on the Moon. However, he did not give a specific time.
“We’re meeting with SpaceX to understand the impact of the delay on the entire development schedule,” said Jim Free, director of Exploration Systems Development at NASA.
The first flight of Artemis I will help the crew understand how the spacecraft works. Lessons learned from Artemis I could help NASA make changes in future flights.
Meanwhile, with the Artemis II mission, NASA required the addition of all the components that would allow Orion to safely carry the crew, including the life support system. Artemis III will need to land on the Gateway Lunar Space Station. This station acts as a home between the Earth and the Moon.
At the same time, serving as a shelter, making flights to the Moon more efficient and providing a launch pad for missions further into the Solar System. The landing system will then bring the astronauts to the surface of the Moon.
The NASA director admitted, Artemis is an ambitious program, similar to Apollo, but on a much larger scale.
“Artemis missions will turn science fiction into real science”, We will make new discoveries. We will improve technology and will learn to live and work in another world.
We will always do this and inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, explorers and other STEM professionals.”
According to CNN