The Artemis mission was supposed to land humans on the Moon in 2024. But on Tuesday, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson pushed back the landing to 'no earlier' than 2025.
NASA is delaying its plan to return humans to the Moon in 2024, in part because of Blue Origin’s legal battle to stop the agency from awarding a lunar lander contract to SpaceX.
“We lost nearly seven months in litigation, and that likely has pushed the first human landing likely to no earlier than 2025,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a Tuesday conference call.
He also blamed the delay on Congress failing to appropriate enough funds to develop the human-landing system and the Trump administration for overestimating the US’ space capabilities. “The Trump administration target of a 2024 human landing was not grounded in technical feasibility,” Nelson said during the call.
The good news for NASA is that a federal judge last week dismissed Blue Origin’s lawsuit contesting the $2.9 billion lunar lander contract to SpaceX. In response, NASA said it would resume work on the human-lunar landing system as soon as possible after previously ordering a halt to the project due to the litigation.
Blue Origin has also indicated the company won’t appeal the judge’s ruling. Instead, it plans on working with NASA on other contracts involving future human landing systems for the Moon.
The lunar lander is a crucial part of NASA’s Artemis Mission. The US not only wants to send both a man and a woman to the Moon, but also establish a sustainable human presence on the surface by the end of the decade.
Despite the setback, Nelson said NASA will remain aggressive in beating competitors, such as China, in returning to the Moon. A human-crewed Artemis mission that’ll send the astronauts around the Moon and back is currently targeting a potential May 2024 launch date. “That mission will go out further than humans have ever been,” he said.