Failed robotic mission, postponement of two manned missions: US lunar ambitions were dealt a heavy blow on Tuesday.
American startup Astrobotic has announced for the first time that its lander, named Peregrine, has been experiencing serious problems during flight. Since its takeoff on Monday, now “no longer has any chance” of landing softly on the moon's surface as planned. This mission marked the first landing of an American aircraft on the moon in more than 50 years.
A few hours later on Tuesday, NASA announced the postponement of the next two missions of its main return program to the Moon, Artemis, by about a year. there Artemis mission 2During which a crew of Four astronauts must orbit the moon Without landing there, it has been postponed from the end of 2024 to September 2025. NASA explained that this delay is due to more necessary security checks, in particular on the heat shield of the capsule in which the crew will travel.
No astronauts on the moon before 2026
Artemis 3, which should Sending astronauts to the moon's surface For the first time since the end of the Apollo program, it was postponed from the end of 2025 to September 2026. There, the delay in the development of two essential components of the mission came into question: the lunar lander, ordered by SpaceX, and the spacecraft. Claims assigned to Axiom Space.
The lander in particular, which is slated to be a modified version of the Starship spacecraft developed by SpaceX, isn't ready yet: Starship flew twice in 2023, and exploded each time. A new test is expected in February.
This bad news will not fail to cast doubt on NASA's new strategy: by encouraging the development of the lunar economy, it wants to be able to rely on the private sector and thus benefit from services at a lower cost than taking charge of development itself. But this tactic also increases its dependence on external partners.
All of these missions demonstrate renewed interest in the Moon, which NASA wants to have a permanent presence in order to prepare for the first crewed trip to Mars.
But the United States is not the only one targeting our natural satellite: China aims to send humans there by 2030, and build a base there. Although the Artemis 3 mission has been postponed to 2026, Bill Nelson said Tuesday: “I really don't think China will land (on the moon) before us.”
So far, only four countries – the United States, the Soviet Union, China and India – have succeeded in landing a device on the moon. Among them, only the United States has actually sent humans there.
In recent years, private Israeli and Japanese companies have also attempted to land on the moon, but these missions ended in accidents. A Japanese Aerospace Agency (JAXA) mission is also scheduled to attempt a landing on the moon in about two weeks.
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