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Moon Landings Delayed by NASA

Senior NASA officials updated the schedule for returning humans to the Moon under the agency’s Artemis Program on Tuesday and discussed costs and other challenges. The most significant piece of news was  formal admission that a human landing on the Moon in 2024 would not be viable, but there were lots of other exciting details. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson led the meeting with space reporters. It came just five days after the US Court of Federal Claims dismissed Blue Origin’s case against NASA for selecting SpaceX to build a lunar lander for the Artemis Program.

Nelson had previously stated that he would update the Artemis Program following the lawsuit, and he did so on Tuesday. But, instead, he charged Blue Origin with all guns blazing. “We’ve lost over seven months in litigation, which has likely postponed the first human landing to no earlier than 2025,” Nelson said, blaming Blue Origin and its lawyers for the delay in NASA’s return to the Moon. In addition, NASA was prohibited from working with SpaceX on the Human Landing System (HLS) program during the judicial proceedings. Apart from that, the agency was unable to provide milestone payments.

Vice President Mike Pence set an aggressive aim of taking humans on the Moon by 2024 when the Trump administration launched the Artemis Program in spring 2019. However, this has never been realistic, but NASA has never openly admitted this instead of setting 2024 as an aspirational goal. Nelson did, however, recognize the delay, citing the Blue Origin case, lower-than-requested resources from Congress for lander development. The infeasibility of the 2024 deadline when it was suggested as the reason for pushing the deadline back until at least 2025. In addition, NASA will require two people for the Artemis III mission, which will carry at least two humans to the lunar surface.

The long-awaited Artemis II mission is the second of these test flights. It will transport a crew of four men to lunar orbit and back, following in the footsteps of the Apollo 8 lunar voyage, which took place in 1968 and followed the first Apollo Moon landing. NASA will now try to fly this mission no later than May 2024, according to Nelson. Astronauts will launch aboard an Orion spacecraft atop a Space Launch System rocket for the Artemis II mission. This will be the first human flight aboard NASA’s Orion spacecraft, in development since 2005.

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