CAPE CANAVERAL, FL (AP) – NASA is delaying sending astronauts to the moon until 2025, missing the Trump administration’s deadline.
The space agency was planning the first astronaut landing on the moon in half a century by 2024.
Announcing the deferral on Tuesday, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Congress did not provide enough money to develop a landing system for its Artemis lunar program. In addition, a lawsuit filed by Jeff Bezos’ rocket company, Blue Origin, has halted work on the Starship lunar lander being developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
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 human of color to the lunar surface, and we are preparing to fly,” Nelson told reporters.
Officials said the technology for the new spacesuits must also be strengthened before astronauts can return to the moon.
The last astronauts landing on the moon took place 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 asking for a larger budget for its Orion capsules from $ 6.7 billion to $ 9.3 billion, citing delays during the coronavirus pandemic and the destruction of the hurricane. The development cost of the 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.