NASA’s mission to land on moon facing years of delays

19 Nov 2021

Image: © Gudellaphoto/Stock.adobe.com

NASA’s Artemis programme will be delayed by several years and will cost up to $93bn by 2025, a report claims.

NASA’s mission to get humans back on the moon will face more costs and delays than planned, according to a new assessment.

The report stated that the space agency’s Artemis missions to land on the moon will be delayed by several years.

Future Human

This analysis comes from NASA’s office of the inspector general (OIG), which audits the various projects of the space agency.

The OIG has claimed the Artemis missions “face varying degrees of technical difficulties and delays heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic and weather events that will push launch schedules from months to years past the agency’s current goals”.

The original plan was to send humans to the moon by 2024, but NASA changed the goal to 2025 at a press briefing on 9 November.

The Artemis I mission to send a spacecraft around the moon with no crew was meant to launch this month but the OIG estimates a launch by summer 2022. This delay could push the Artemis II mission back to mid-2024, as this mission is intended to reuse components from the Orion spacecraft for Artemis I.

Currently scheduled for launch in 2025, Artemis III will be the first crewed lunar landing since Apollo 17 in 1972. However, the OIG report warned that the time needed for development, testing and certification of both the Human Landing System and next-generation spacesuits needed for this mission will add years onto this plan.

The report recommends that NASA develop “a realistic, risk-informed schedule that includes sufficient margin to better align agency expectations with the development schedule”.

The OIG also noted that NASA lacks a credible cost estimate for the Artemis missions, and that $25bn should be added to its planned expenses.

This change means the missions will cost NASA up to $93bn by 2025, with $40bn already spent from 2012 to 2020.

NASA faced delays earlier this year when Jeff Bezos’ space company, Blue Origin, filed a suit with the US Court of Federal Claims over a $2.9bn contract awarded to SpaceX.

SpaceX is working on spacecraft that will bring astronauts to the moon and back to orbit.

While the OIG report acknowledged SpaceX has rapid production capabilities, it stated the current design of the spacecraft has technology that needs further development.

It stated: “Specifically, SpaceX’s design needed to mature a complex propulsion system and an unprecedented propellant transfer system within the Earth’s orbit.”

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com