Jan 9, 2024 - Science

NASA delays first moon landing in decades

The crew members of the Artemis II mission at Kennedy Space Center in August 2023.

The crew members of the Artemis II mission at Kennedy Space Center in August. Photo: Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

NASA is delaying its long-awaited return to the surface of the moon by a year over crew safety concerns.

Why it matters: The landing was one of two postponements to the Artemis program announced by the space agency, as it also pushed back a slingshot around the moon that was scheduled for next year.

  • The crew of four astronauts for Artemis II will now have to wait until 2025 before they can make their planned flyby, while their lunar landing as part of Artemis III was bumped from 2025 to 2026.
  • Artemis IV, the first planned mission to an extraterrestrial space station, dubbed the Gateway, remains on track for 2028, NASA said.

NASA said anomalies during the unmanned Artemis I test mission prompted the delays.

  • It's currently investigating the unexpected loss of pieces from the Orion spacecraft's heat shield during that test.
  • It's also testing several of Orion's components, including a battery issue and challenges with a circuitry responsible for air ventilation and temperature control.

What they're saying: NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said the delays were necessary because "the safety of our astronauts is NASA's top priority."

  • Catherine Koerner, NASA's associate administrator for exploration systems development, said, ultimately, the hardware needed for Artemis "drives our decision-making."
  • "We are resolving challenges associated with first-time capabilities and operations, and we are closer than ever to establishing sustained exploration of Earth's nearest neighbor under Artemis," she added.

The big picture: The delays are just the latest for the Artemis program.

  • Artemis I was originally set for 2021 but launched in late 2022, delayed by by engine issues.

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