The Moon will wait a little longer. The return of astronauts to the ground from the natural satellite of Earth, as part of the US Artemis program, has been delayed from 2024 to 2025 ” as soon as possible “, announced the NASA, the American space agency, Tuesday, November 9.
The 2024 date had been set by Donald Trump’s administration, but it was widely seen as nearly impossible to meet. This delay was therefore relatively expected, but this is the first time that NASA has officially recognized it. The American space agency was waiting in particular for the resolution of a legal dispute concerning the development of the future lander before announcing a new schedule.
“We lost nearly seven months in litigation and that probably pushed back the first human landing until 2025 at the earliest”, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said at a press conference.
Most “There are other reasons”, he added. The date of 2024, set by the previous administration, was not “Technically feasible”, he asserted. He also criticized the lack of funds allocated by Congress in recent years for the development of the moon landing gear. This mission, which is to take the first woman to lunar soil, is named Artemis-3.
The test mission without an astronaut scheduled for February 2022
Mr. Nelson also announced that the Artemis-2 mission, which will be the first in the program with astronauts on board but which will not land on the Moon, now had “A potential take-off date in May 2024”. This second mission, previously announced for 2023, “Will go further than any human has ever been. Probably nearly 65,000 kilometers beyond the Moon, then will return to Earth ”, said the NASA administrator.
Artemis-1, the first test mission to the Moon, which will not include an astronaut on board, is still scheduled for February 2022.
All these missions will use NASA’s new giant rocket, called SLS (for Space Launch System), which will propel the Orion capsule to the moon. It is currently fully assembled at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, awaiting take-off.
The cost of developing the capsule, in which the astronauts will be located, rose from $ 6.7 billion to $ 9.3 billion (around € 8 billion) up to Artemis-2, Nelson said. Tuesday. The astronauts will then have to be transferred aboard a moon lander in order to land on and leave the Moon.
The last human presence on the moon dates from 1972
The construction of this lander has been entrusted to SpaceX. Named Starship, it is currently under development in Texas. Work between NASA and SpaceX on this machine had to be interrupted after Blue Origin, which was also in the running for the award of this flagship contract, lodged a complaint against the choice of the space agency, arguing that the process selection had been unfair. This complaint was dismissed last week by a federal court.
“Even though we were on a break, the SpaceX teams were able to move forward”, said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA. Discussions resumed with Elon Musk’s company “To understand the progress made”, she added.
SpaceX must successfully land without an astronaut on board on the Moon, a demonstration being part of NASA’s requirements for this contract. The date of this test is not known.
The Artemis program, which is also set to take the first colored person to the moon, echoes NASA’s Apollo program in the 1960s, but is intended to establish a lasting presence on the moon and prepare for trips to Mars.
The first humans to set foot on the moon were part of the Apollo-11 mission, in 1969, and the last time humans were there was in 1972, with Apollo-17.
“The Moon, an Adventure”, a series in six episodes
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NASA postpones the return of astronauts to the Moon to 2025, “at the earliest”