NASA Administrator Bill Nelson has announced a shift in the Artemis launch dates, including pushing the first return by humans to the lunar surface until at least 2025.
“After having taken a look under the hood for the last six months, it’s clear to me that the agency will need to make serious changes for the long-term success of the program,” Nelson said on a media teleconference Monday.
He said Artemis I, the uncrewed first flight of the Space Launch System and Orion capsule, is now targeting February 2022. The rocket is stacked and ready for a wet dress rehearsal that will be on the launch pad at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center in January.
Nelson, though, said that Artemis II, which had previously been targeting 2023, and will be the first crewed flight of the program, now has a potential launch date of May 2024.
He said NASA’s updated spending plan through that flight since fiscal year 2012 is $9.3 billion, and delays from COVID-19 were among the reasons NASA needs to lengthen the Artemis timeline. The sped-up timeline was enacted under the Trump administration, which was looking to launch Artemis III by 2024.
Artemis III, which looks to put the first woman on the moon, will need the Human Landing System to be up and running, and it was only last week that a federal court ruled in favor of NASA in its choice to make SpaceX the sole contractor for the HLS to be used on Artemis III.
The lawsuit brought by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin put a halt on discussions between NASA and SpaceX earlier this year.
“We’ve lost nearly seven months in litigation, and that likely has pushed the first human landing, likely to no earlier than 2025,” Nelson said.
Nelson said that NASA plans on sending one more flight to the moon ahead of Artemis III, though, which will be an uncrewed test flight to the lunar surface.