NASA delays next moon landing until 2025 at earliest

NASA has announced a delay in putting astronauts back on the moon until 2025 at the earliest, missing the deadline set by the Trump administration.

The space agency had been aiming for 2024 for the first moon landing by astronauts in a half-century.

In announcing the delay on Tuesday, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said US Congress did not provide enough money to develop a landing system for its Artemis moon programme, and more money is needed for its Orion capsule.

In addition, a legal challenge by Jeff Bezos’ rocket company, Blue Origin, stalled work for months on the Starship lunar landing system under development by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Officials said technology for new spacesuits also needs to ramp up, before astronauts can return to the moon.

NASA’s last moon landing by astronauts occurred during Apollo 17 in 1972. Altogether, 12 men have so far explored the lunar surface.

During a National Space Council meeting in 2019, then-Vice President Mike Pence called for landing astronauts on the moon within five years “by any means necessary.”

NASA had been shooting for a lunar landing in 2028, and pushing it up by four years was considered at the time exceedingly ambitious, if not improbable.

Congress will need to increase funding, beginning with the 2023 budget, in order for NASA to have private companies competing for the planned 10 or more moon landings by astronauts, Nelson said.

The space agency also is requesting a bigger budget for its Orion capsules, from $6.7 billion to $9.3 billion (€5.8 billion to €8.03 billion) , citing delays during the coronavirus pandemic and storm damage to NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, the main manufacturing site for SLS and Orion.

Development costs for the rocket through the first Artemis flight next year stand at $11 billion.

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