In the first major Artemis update provided under the Biden-Harris Administration, NASA announced that the next man and first woman will not step foot on the Moon until 2025, a year delay from the 2024 goal set by the Trump Administration.
NASA administrator Bill Nelson led a discussion with agency leadership Tuesday, in which he explained the delay and reiterated a long-term commitment to landing on the lunar surface.
The Artemis schedule was pushed back nearly seven months by a lawsuit Blue Origin filed against NASA, contesting the agency’s selection of SpaceX to supply the lunar lander for the Artemis mission. On November 4, the judge ruled against Blue Origin, effectively handing SpaceX’s Starship the honor of delivering the first astronauts to the Moon In over fifty years.
“We’re pleased with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims’ thorough evaluation of NASA’s source selection process for the human landing system (HLS), and we have already resumed conversations with SpaceX,” Nelson said. “It’s clear we’re both eager to get back to work together and establish a new timeline for our initial lunar demonstration missions. Returning to the Moon as quickly and safely as possible is an agency priority.”
Nelson added that the delayed lunar landing is due, in part, to first-time development challenges, Congress not appropriating sufficient funds for the HLS competition, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Trump Administration’s landing goal of 2024 not being technically feasible.
The update does not affect later Artemis mission schedules and lunar surface plans, including the development of Gateway, a lunar orbiting outpost that will provide critical infrastructure for exploration and settlements on the Moon and Mars.
Nelson also announced that the development cost of the Orion spacecraft, which will carry astronauts for Artemis, is now $9.3 billion from fiscal year 2012 through the first crewed flight test no later than May 2024.
While the Artemis III mission will finally bring humans back to the lunar surface, Artemis I and Artemis II will perform test flights around the Moon first, with the latter taking astronauts farther into space than any humans have ever traveled before, roughly 40,000 miles past the Moon, before returning home.
NASA also plans to issue a formal solicitation next spring for recurring human landing systems services.
“Going forward, NASA is planning for at least 10 Moon landings in the future, and the agency needs significant increases in funding for future lander competition, starting with the 2023 budget,” said Nelson.
Until then, in an effort to reduce costs the agency has issued a request for information to the industry to maximize efficiencies in the Space Launch System (SLS) enterprise and also has asked industry partners to build spacesuits and provide spacewalk services for the International Space Station and Artemis program missions.
“What we’re doing is one of the great undertakings of humanity – the scope of it from SLS to Orion to Gateway, human landing systems, ground systems, communications, spacesuits and more – it’s staggering,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. “First at the Moon, and then at Mars. But we’re NASA, and we’re rising to the challenge.”