“We are adjusting our timeline to target Artemis 2 in September 2025, and September 2026 for Artemis 3,” NASA Chief Bill Nelson announced during a press conference. Artémis 2 was previously scheduled to be launched at the end of 2024, and Artémis 3 at the end of 2025.
Sustained presence on the moon
“Safety is our first priority,” Bill Nelson said, noting that the space agency and its private corporate partners need more time.
Despite these postponements, Bill Nelson said, “I don't really think China will land (on the moon) before us.” The Artemis program aims to establish a permanent presence on the Moon, in order to prepare for the first crew’s trip to Mars.
This program was launched in 2022 with the Artemis 1 mission, which succeeded in flying the Orion spacecraft around the moon, with the aim of testing it without a crew.
The Artemis 2 mission is expected to last about 10 days, and will send four astronauts on a trip around the moon, without landing there. They are three Americans – Reed Wiseman, Victor Glover, and Christina Koch – and Canadian Jeremy Hansen, all of whom are already in full training.
Amit Kshatriya, a senior NASA official, explained that this mission was postponed for security reasons because many problems must be resolved before takeoff.
The Artemis 3 mission would then be the first to deposit astronauts on the moon in more than 50 years and the end of Apollo.
But two key components are not yet ready: first the lander, which has been ordered from the space company SpaceX, and spacesuits adapted to the lunar environment, which Axiom Space has been commissioned to develop.
Amit Kshatriya said the new date of 2026 makes it possible to take into account “the development challenges faced by our industrial partners.”
Artemis 4 in 2028
The lander will be a modified version of the Starship spacecraft, which is currently being developed by billionaire Elon Musk's company.
However, the first two flights of the Starship vehicle, mounted on its super-heavy engine, ended in explosions in 2023. A new test flight should take place in February, SpaceX Director Jessica Jensen said on Tuesday.
To reach the Moon, the spacecraft must also be refueled in flight — a risky and untested process. Jessica Jensen said about “ten” spaceships filled with fuel would have to take off to provide a version of the ship that would make the trip to the moon. An unmanned lunar landing must also be carried out before Artemis 3.
Artemis 4 is still scheduled to launch in September 2028. This will be the first mission to the new Gateaway space station.
NASA said that the launch of the first two components of this station into orbit around the moon was scheduled to take place in 2025, but this schedule will also be revised.
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