NASA has announced that its plans to put humans back on the Moon will need some more time. In a statement, NASA announced delays to its next launches in the Artemis program, which is the foundation for the group’s plans to go back to the Moon and later Mars.
Artemis II, the first crewed mission around the Moon, is now slated for September 2025 (a delay of about a year), with Artemis III slipping back to September 2026. The latter mission will put humans near the surface of the Moon’s South Pole, but it won’t touch down.
NASA’s Artemis IV mission to the yet-to-be-built Gateway space station that will float around the Moon remains on track for 2028. Notably, the first elements of Gateway were scheduled to be sent into space in October 2025, but NASA now says it’s “reviewing the schedule” for that.
Sometime after 2028, NASA will launch another mission to put humans back onto the Moon.
“We are returning to the Moon in a way we never have before, and the safety of our astronauts is NASA’s top priority as we prepare for future Artemis missions,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said. “When we set our sights on what is hard, together, we can achieve what is great.”
NASA said ensuring crew safety was the “primary driver” for the launch delays. The organization said its testing process led to the discovering of “issues that require additional time to resolve.”
“Teams are troubleshooting a battery issue and addressing challenges with a circuitry component responsible for air ventilation and temperature control,” NASA said.
Artemis I, which launched in 2022, turned up a few issues that NASA is addressing, including the “unexpected loss of char layer pieces” from the heat shield.
Overall, NASA’s aim with the Artemis program is to “explore more of the Moon than ever before” so it can learn how people can live and work there. The efforts made in the Artemis program will help NASA prepare for a trip to Mars later on.
This is just the latest space setback this week. The private company Astrobotic launched its own lunar lander headed to the Moon on Monday, but just hours into the flight, things went wrong, and now there is no chance it will make it to the Moon. The ship was carrying some of JFK’s hair and the ashes of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, among other things.
This was going to be the first US Moon landing since 1972, but it was not meant to be.