Washington (dpa) – NASA's Artemis moon program continues to be delayed. NASA announced in a press conference that the crewed orbit of “Artemis 2” around the moon, which was previously scheduled for November 2024, will be postponed to September 2025 due to problems with the rocket and spacecraft. The Artemis 3 manned lunar landing will be postponed to September 2026. Another planned lunar landing, Artemis 4, is still scheduled for September 2028.
“We are doing something very difficult,” said NASA chief Bill Nelson. “Safety is our top priority.” That's why they want to give teams more time to work on current challenges. Among other things, the Orion capsule's thermal protection shield still needs to be revised, it was said at the press conference.
Former Space Chief Woerner: No more high stakes
“It remains exciting,” former European space chief Jan Werner told the German news agency. Space travel remains challenging and potentially dangerous. In the past, the so-called “space race” between the United States and the former Soviet Union involved great risks, but that era is over. “It therefore makes sense to postpone the start if difficulties are identified – especially in space travel,” the former head of the European Space Agency (ESA) said.
American astronaut Christina Koch, her American colleagues Victor Glover and Reed Wiseman, and Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen were actually supposed to fly around the moon in the “Orion” capsule for approximately ten days in November 2024. They could have been the first four astronauts to approach the moon since The Apollo 17 astronauts set foot on Earth's satellite for some time in 1972.
At the end of 2022, the Space Launch System and Orion capsule were successfully tested without a pilot for the first time. About a year after Artemis 2, another manned flight, including a lunar landing, will follow, Artemis 3.
The first landing on the moon by a woman and a non-white person
The Artemis program, named after the Greek goddess of the moon, aims to land a woman and a non-white person on the moon for the first time – it was originally scheduled to take place by 2024, but that timeline was questioned by experts from the beginning. The European Space Agency (ESA) and space agencies from several other countries are participating in the “Artemis” project.
The last time humans reached the Moon was about 50 years ago on the Apollo 17 mission, landing on December 11, 1972. In all, the United States was the only country so far to bring twelve astronauts aboard Apollo. Moon missions between 1969 and 1972.
The US space agency had already suffered a lunar setback at the beginning of the week when a private US space mission supported by NASA, aiming for the first successful commercial landing on the moon, failed. Astrobotic's “Peregrine” capsule in Pittsburgh was launched from Cape Canaveral Spaceport successfully, but problems with the propulsion system made a planned lunar landing impossible.
Close cooperation with commercial service providers
NASA is working more and more closely with commercial providers because this method has proven to be effective and ultimately cost-saving. Through Peregrine Mission 1, individuals were able to purchase space to transport materials to the Moon in a lander measuring 1.9 meters high and 2.5 meters in diameter.
In April 2023, a Japanese company had already failed in a similar lunar mission; Ispace cited an incorrect altitude calculation for the lander as the reason for the landing attempt.
China has recently had much more success when it comes to the Moon: The country has successfully landed three unmanned lunar landers on the surface of Earth's satellite since 2013, with plans to launch another this year.
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