NASA postpones astronaut moon landing to 2025 at the earliest, deadline missed by one year

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NASA on Tuesday postponed the return of astronauts to the moon until 2025 at the earliest and missed the deadline set by the Trump administration.

The space agency had aimed for the first moon landing by astronauts in half a century in 2024.

Announcing the delay, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Congress had not allocated enough money to develop a landing system for its Artemis lunar program and that more money was needed for its Orion capsule. In addition, a legal challenge to Jeff Bezos’ rocket company Blue Origin has stalled work on the Starship lunar landing system, which is being developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, for months.

Officials said technology for new spacesuits must also be ramped up before astronauts can return to the moon.

NASA is planning the first test flight of its lunar rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), with an Orion capsule in February. Nobody will be on board. Instead, astronauts will buckle up for the second Artemis flight, which will soar over the moon but not land in 2024, a year later than planned. That would accelerate the moon landing to at least 2025, according to Nelson.

“The human landing system is a critical part of our work to bring the first woman and the first colored man to the surface of the moon, and we are preparing for it,” Nelson told reporters. “NASA is committed to restoring America’s reputation in the world.”

Nelson pointed to China’s ambitious and aggressive space program and warned that it could overtake the US in lunar exploration.

NASA’s last moon landing by astronauts took place in 1972 during Apollo 17. A total of 12 men explored the surface of the moon.

During a 2019 National Space Council meeting, Vice President Mike Pence called for astronauts to land on the moon “by all means” within five years. NASA had targeted a moon landing in 2028, and an extension of four years was considered extremely ambitious, if not unlikely, at the time.

Congress must increase funding from the 2023 budget to allow NASA private companies to compete for the planned 10 or more astronaut moon landings, Nelson said.

The space agency is also calling for a larger budget for its Orion capsules from $ 6.7 billion (about Rs.49,731 billion) to $ 9.3 billion in New Orleans, the main manufacturing base of SLS and Orion. The cost of developing the rocket for the first Artemis flight next year is $ 11 billion (approximately Rs 81,650 billion).

Vice President Kamala Harris will convene her first session of the National Space Council as Chair on December 1st. Nelson said he briefed her on the latest schedule and cost during her visit to the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland on Friday.

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