Apr 27, 2021 - Science

NASA and SpaceX still pushing for a Moon landing in 2024

A photo of the Moon.

Photo: NASA

NASA and SpaceX still appear to be pushing to meet the 2024 deadline to land astronauts back on the Moon first set by the Trump administration.

The big picture: In its first 100 days, the Biden administration undid many of the Trump administration's policies but President Biden has largely hewed closely to Trump-era space policies.

Catch up quick: Many in the space industry expected the 2024 deadline for the first Artemis landing would be quickly amended by the Biden administration, but NASA still appears to be working toward that ambitious goal.

  • "I think we all have to recognize that space is hard, and it's an ambitious timetable, but that is what has been stated," Bill Nelson, Biden's nominee for NASA administrator said during his confirmation hearing last week.
  • NASA also just awarded SpaceX a contract to build a landing system that will take people to the lunar surface as part of the Artemis program.
  • "We're going to build a lot of rockets and probably smash a bunch of them, but I think it will happen," SpaceX's Elon Musk said last week. "I think 2024 — it seems likely. We're going to aim for sooner than that, but I think this is actually doable."

Yes, but: While NASA and SpaceX are optimistic, there is plenty of reason to doubt the current timeline.

  • The space agency's Space Launch System rocket — designed to bring astronauts to orbit around the Moon — has already been delayed by technical problems, and it's not yet clear it if will fly for the first time before next year, possibly pushing the current timeline.
  • NASA's acting administrator Steve Jurczyk has also said 2024 no longer appears to be possible.
  • Some are also questioning NASA's decision to only select SpaceX for its human lander, saying the space agency is putting all of its eggs in one basket and landing on the Moon is no easy feat, particularly for a company that has never done it before.
  • Blue Origin also filed a protest against the decision to award SpaceX the sole contract, saying the agency "moved the goalposts at the last minute."

Go deeper: All the Moon landings, from Luna to Apollo to Chang'e

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