Saturday, December 4, 2021

NASA increases astronaut landing on the moon no earlier than 2025

NASA on Tuesday delayed sending astronauts to the moon until 2025 at the earliest, missing the deadline set by the Trump administration.

The space agency was planning the first astronaut landing on the moon in half a century by 2024.

Announcing the postponement, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Congress had not provided enough money to develop a landing system for its Artemis lunar program, and more money was needed for its Orion capsule. In addition, a lawsuit filed by Jeff Bezos’ rocket company, Blue Origin, has suspended work on the Starship moon landing system, which is being developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, for several months.

FILE. In this photo provided by NASA, Administrator Bill Nelson speaks to staff at the agency’s headquarters in the Mary W. Jackson Building in Washington, DC, June 2, 2021.

Officials said the technology for the new spacesuits must also be strengthened before astronauts can return to the moon.

NASA is still targeting February next year for the first test flight of its Space Launch System, or SLS, Orion capsule lunar rocket. There will be no one on board. Instead, the astronauts will buckle up on a second Artemis mission, which will fly outside the moon but will not land in 2024, a year later than scheduled. According to Nelson, this will lead to the landing on the moon until at least 2025.

“The Human Landing System is an important part of our job of getting the first woman and first colored person to the lunar surface, and we are preparing to fly,” Nelson told reporters. “NASA is committed to helping restore America’s position in the world.”

Nelson drew attention to China’s ambitious and aggressive space program and warned that it could overtake the United States in exploring the moon.

FILE - Employees and contractors watch as the main stage of the NASA Space Launch System rocket, which will be used for the Artemis 1 mission, is transported to the Pegasus barge at NASA's Michoud assembly facility, where it was built, in New Orleans, January.  8, 2020.

FILE – Employees and contractors watch as the main stage of the NASA Space Launch System rocket, which will be used for the Artemis 1 mission, is transported to the Pegasus barge at NASA’s Michoud assembly facility, where it was built, in New Orleans, January. 8, 2020.

NASA’s last astronauts landing on the Moon occurred during Apollo 17 in 1972. In total, 12 people have studied the lunar surface.

During a meeting of the National Space Council in 2019, Vice President Mike Pence called for the landing of astronauts on the moon within five years “by whatever means necessary.” NASA was preparing to land on the moon in 2028, and a four-year increase at the time was considered extremely ambitious, if not incredible.

Congress will need to increase funding starting with the 2023 budget so that NASA has private companies vying for 10 or more astronaut moon landings, Nelson said.

The space agency is also requesting a larger budget for its Orion capsules from $ 6.7 billion to $ 9.3 billion, citing delays during the coronavirus pandemic and hurricane damage to NASA’s Mishuda assembly center in New Orleans, SLS and Orion’s main production facility. The cost of developing a rocket for the first flight of Artemis next year will be $ 11 billion.

Vice President Kamala Harris will convene his first meeting of the National Space Council as chairman on December 1. Nelson said he briefed her on the latest schedule and costs during their visit to the Space Flight Center. Goddard in Maryland on Friday.

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