The formal announcement by NASA
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The goal of returning humans to the moon by 2024 has been formally abandoned, with a landing by NASA astronauts on the lunar surface set for at least 2025.
On November 9th, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson described the recently finished legal challenge by Blue Origin to the agency’s decision to award a Human Landing System (HLS) contract to SpaceX as “significant.” However, that is not the sole reason for the Trump administration’s decision to postpone the March 2019 lunar landing target.
“We have not been able to have any touch with SpaceX on the HLS program for seven months due to the case,” he stated. On Nov. 5, he spoke with SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell, a day after a federal court dismissed Blue Origin’s lawsuit against NASA over the program.
4 years delay for Review
The Artemis 3 mission, which is set to launch before the end of 2024, has as its primary goal a landing on the moon. Nelson stated that the mission would now be scheduled for 2025. He went on to say that NASA and SpaceX required more time to assess the program’s current state before committing to a more detailed mission plan.
He didn’t just blame the HLS lawsuit for the delay in returning humans to the moon. “Previous Congresses did not approve enough monies for the Human Landing System before fiscal year ’22,” he stated. NASA proposed $3.3 billion for HLS in the Trump administration’s final budget proposal for the fiscal year 2021, but Congress only granted $850 million.
He went on to say that the 2024 goal may not have been feasible in the first place. “The Trump administration’s goal of a human landing in 2024 was not based on technical feasibility,” he claimed.
“Artemis 2 is a complicated vehicle,” he stated, noting delays in the spacecraft’s environmental control and life support technology. “That’s how it all moved out when you total it all up.”
The price of developing Orion is also rising. At the event, NASA stated that the mission has been “rebaselined,” with a new cost of $9.3 billion from the fiscal year 2012 through Artemis 2. The prior estimate for the program’s cost through Artemis 2 was $6.7 billion.
Despite the current delays, Nelson said NASA was still dedicated to transporting humans to the moon, and he backed competition for future lunar lander services after Artemis 3. Starting with its fiscal year 2023 budget request next year, NASA would seek “a large increase in financing” for that competition, he added.