Nov 16, 2021 - Science

Report: NASA likely to miss Moon landing deadline

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

NASA isn't likely to land astronauts back on the surface of the Moon before 2026, according to a new report.

Why it matters: It suggests NASA may not meet its newly updated deadline of 2025 for the space agency's flagship human spaceflight program designed to get astronauts on the lunar surface again.

  • The Trump administration established the Artemis program, and the Biden administration has continued it as a major part of NASA's portfolio.

What's happening: A new report from NASA's Office of Inspector General found the Trump administration's original deadline for landing on the Moon in 2024 isn't feasible.

  • Instead, the report says the first human Artemis landing will be in 2026 at the earliest due to delayed technology development and budget shortfalls.
  • Some of the main outstanding issues include developing next-generation spacesuits for use on the Moon and a privately built, human-rated lunar lander.
  • "Currently NASA’s most ambitious and costly activity, the Artemis program faces schedule, procurement, technical, and funding risks," the report says.

Details: The Artemis program relies on a number of technologies that have been difficult to develop or have been delayed in one way or another.

  • The Space Launch System rocket — which was expected to make its debut flight this year — won't fly until next year at the earliest.
  • SpaceX won a much-contested contract from NASA to build a human lander for the space agency in April, but protests from other bidders like Blue Origin have delayed the company's work on that vital piece of technology.
  • The program is also expensive, with NASA "projected to spend $93 billion on the Artemis effort up to FY 2025," according to the OIG report.

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