The astronauts heading around the Moon on NASA’s Artemis II mission shouldn’t be packing their bags just yet.
The crewed flight that will give three Americans and one Canadian an up-close view of Earth’s oldest satellite won’t fly until September 2025, nearly a year later than originally planned, NASA announced Tuesday.
What’s the holdup? TL;DR: the tech just won’t be ready as quickly as expected.
For the lunar wonks among us, let’s dig in more:
- Artemis II: The agency is concerned about the safety of the passengers aboard Lockheed Martin’s ($LMT) Orion capsule after parts of the heat shield on an uncrewed mission in 2023 burned off upon reentry. NASA wants to understand what happened—even though any astronauts on board would have been fine. The heat shield isn’t the only holdup, however. Faulty electrical components need to be replaced in the capsule’s life support systems.
- Artemis III: The mission that is now expected to land the first woman and person of color on the surface of the Moon in Sept. 2026 faces greater challenges. NASA has hired SpaceX’s Starship to deliver those humans to the lunar surface, but the vehicle still needs to get into orbit, and prove that it can handle the tricky business of refueling cryogenic propellants in space, which could take “ten-ish” flights for a voyage to the moon, per SpaceX VP Jessica Jensen. We’ll see what that looks like for the first time during an uncrewed Moon landing SpaceX is targeting for 2025.
Next steps: All eyes are on Starship’s next test launch, which is expected next month. The officials also teased some upcoming announcements, including a new date for the launch of the lunar Gateway, and which company will build the first crewed lunar rover of the 21st century.
Finders keepers: With China aiming for a 2030 crewed landing on the Moon, the 21st century space don’t-call-it-a-race is heating up. Asked about those plans, Nelson said “I do not have a concern that China will land before us… they would like to land before us because that might give them some PR coup, the fact is that I don’t think they will.”