NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the moon by 2025 through the Artemis program are facing significant delays, with a likely target of 2027, according to recent reports. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published an assessment stating that NASA had underestimated the challenges in developing the human landing system and space suits for the Artemis program.
One contributing factor to the extended timelines is the failure of orbital tests of the SpaceX Starship rocket system, which will power NASA astronauts’ return to the moon. These failures have further complicated the already complex task of completing the Artemis program. The GAO report suggests that NASA miscalculated the timelines for the program and underestimated the complexity of human spaceflight.
To develop the necessary systems for the Artemis program, NASA is relying on third-party contractors, including SpaceX and Axiom Space. However, SpaceX appears to be behind schedule in developing a system to launch tankers and transfer propellant, which is a critical aspect of the moon landing plan.
In order to fully execute the Artemis program, NASA has requested $12.4 billion over the next five years. This funding will be used to develop the lunar human landing system and modernize space suits.
Despite these setbacks, NASA successfully completed the Artemis I mission in December 2021. This mission tested new components and the Orion space capsule, bringing NASA one step closer to its goal of returning to the moon.
The Artemis program consists of three phases, with a crewed mission to the lunar surface now expected no sooner than 2027. As part of the program, NASA aims to establish a small space station called the Lunar Gateway in orbit around the moon and eventually build a moon base station.
NASA’s motivation for returning to the moon is multifaceted, including scientific discovery, economic benefits, and inspiration for the Artemis Generation of explorers. Additionally, the Artemis missions aim to achieve several firsts, such as landing the first woman and person of color on the moon and establishing a long-term presence on the lunar surface.
Furthermore, NASA plans to use the knowledge gained from the Artemis missions to eventually send astronauts to Mars. The insights and technologies developed during the lunar exploration phase will inform future crewed missions to the Red Planet.
Overall, despite the delays and challenges faced by the Artemis program, NASA remains committed to returning to the moon and exploring the vast possibilities it presents for humanity’s future in space.
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