NASA sends back of one year the return of the astronauts on the Moon: the Artemis 3 mission, that will bring the first woman on the Moon, will not start before 2025.
It was in the air since some time, but the confirmation arrived only in the last days: the Artemis program, that foresaw the return of the man on the surface of the Moon for 2024 slips of one year.
This was confirmed by Bill Nelson, NASA Administrator, during a press conference.
In addition to the well-known budget problems, it seems that the responsibility of the delay accrued by the American Space Agency is due to the legal problems caused by the appeal of Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin.
We're going back to the Moon, but in 2025
NASA's announcement came just after a federal judge decided to award SpaceX the contract to build the lunar lander, the vehicle that will allow NASA to bring astronauts back to the Moon's surface for the first time in fifty years.
The issue of the lunar lander has been a hot topic for the Artemis program since the beginning: first the lack of funds, then the three-way bidding process that saw both Boeing's and Blue Origin's proposals excluded in favor of SpaceX, up to Jeff Bezos suing NASA - thus greatly lengthening the scheduled time for the launch of the lunar exploration program missions.
The judge's pronouncement soothes any controversy: the Space Agency's decision to use the lunar lander that is taking shape in SpaceX's Starbase is lawful. The men will return to the Moon aboard a SpaceX vehicle, but in 2025.
"Returning to the Moon as safely and quickly as possible is a priority for the Agency," says Nelson, "but due to the recent legal action and other factors, the first lunar landing of the Artemis mission will not take place until 2025.
Artemis Mission: the plan
The Artemis program brings together NASA, ESA and the space agencies of Japan and Canada on a mission to put the first woman and the next man - the 13th - on the Moon.
There will be three key missions to accompany the project toward the new moon landing: the first mission, Artemis 1, is scheduled for February 2024, when the Space Launch System, the huge rocket NASA has been working on since 2011, will be launched for the first time.
The Space Launch System will travel without astronauts on board, but will take the Orion spacecraft on a three-week journey around the Moon, useful for testing all the capsule's systems.
The first mission to send people aboard the Space Launch System is still scheduled for 2024, when the first astronauts to orbit the Moon will see the Moon up close again.
Artemis 3 is the mission that will bring humans back to the Moon for the first time since 1972, the year of the Apollo 17 mission. The lunar lander will land at the south pole, which is believed to contain vast basins of frozen water within craters never illuminated by sunlight: the ice could be used to extract on site the fuel needed for Moon exploration.