The return of humans to the Moon, within the framework of the American program Artemis was postponed from 2024 to “not before 2025,” said the head of the POT Bill Nelson.
The government of former President Donald Trump had set the goal of the trip for a date in 2024, but the Artemis program has suffered many development delays, ranging from its vehicles to the necessary spacesuits.
Last week, the POT won a court case brought by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, which he had sued after losing a landing contract with Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
“We lost almost seven months in litigation and that has led to the first human moon landing being probably not before 2025”, Nelson said by phone.
“The good news is that POT is making solid progress, ”Nelson stressed, citing the fact that the Orion mission crew capsule has now docked atop the massive rocket. Space Launch System, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The POT targets a first unmanned mission, Artemis 1, in February 2022, and Artemis 2, the first manned mission to fly over the Moon in 2024.
Separately, SpaceX needs to complete an unmanned landing to test the lunar version of its Starship rocket, before the same vehicle is used for the crewed landing.
Nelson revealed that POT it was committed to a total development cost to Orion of $ 9.3 billion, spanning the period from 2012 to 2024, up from the previous estimate of $ 6.7 billion.
In any case, Nelson warned that more funds from Congress would be required to meet the new deadlines, and added that “the Chinese space program is increasingly capable of landing taikonauts (Chinese astronauts) much earlier than originally expected.”
“We are facing a very aggressive and good Chinese space program,” he added.
“It is the position of the POT and I think from the United States Government, that we want to be there first on the Moon after half a century ”.
China, the world’s second-largest economy, has invested billions of dollars in its military-led space program, hoping to have a permanently manned space station by 2022.
It has already sent rovers to the Moon, even to the far side, and is aiming for a first manned lunar mission by 2029.
Humans last landed on the Moon in 1972 on the Apollo 17 mission.
The POT says the program Artemis it will include the first woman and the first black person to set foot on the surface of the Earth’s natural satellite.
The agency wants to build a sustained habitat on the Moon and use the lessons learned from long expeditions there to develop a manned mission to Mars by the 2030s.