NASA has officially adjusted its timeline for the Artemis III mission and won’t be landing on the Moon in 2024. The agency is now aiming to land the first woman and next American man on the lunar surface in 2025 at the earliest, NASA administrator Bill Nelson has announced. NASA was originally targeting a 2028 launch date for its return to the Moon, but the Trump administration moved that date up by four years back in 2017. In a conference call with reporters, Nelson said “the Trump administration’s target of 2024 human landing was not grounded in technical feasibility.”
In addition to the unrealistic deadline, Nelson blamed Blue Origin’s lawsuit against the agency for the delay. It had to put its contract with SpaceX on hold and pause work on the lunar lander that’s meant to take astronauts to the surface of the Moon for a couple of times. NASA lost almost seven months of work on the lander as a result, which had cast doubts on the 2024 landing even before Nelson made his announcement.
If you’ll recall, NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to develop a Starship-based lunar landing system back in April. The agency historically works with more than one contractor for each mission, but in this instance, it inked a deal with Elon Musk’s company alone. Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin sued NASA over that decision, arguing that it wasn’t given the chance to revise its bid for the project.
Based on legal documents The Verge obtained in September, however, NASA felt that Blue Origin “gambled” with its proposed $5.9 billion lunar lander bid. The company allegedly set the price higher than necessary, because it assumed that NASA would award it a contract but negotiate for a lower price. The Federal Court of Claims ultimately ruled against Blue Origin a few days ago, dismissing its claims that NASA ignored “key flight safety requirements” when it awarded SpaceX the lunar lander contract.
Nelson’s announcement comes shortly after NASA moved the uncrewed Artemis I flight test launch from this year to February 2022. That’s assuming everything will go as planned — the Orion capsule and Space Launch System that will be used for the mission will still have to go through a battery of tests before NASA can schedule it for blastoff.
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