NASA pushes back human moon landing until 2025, blames seven months lost in Blue Origin litigation

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, “We’ve lost nearly 7 months in litigation and that likely has pushed the first human landing likely to no earlier than 2025.” He was referring to a court decision last week rejecting a protest by SpaceX rival Blue Origin over the loss of the lunar lander contract. 

Created On: Nov 10, 2021 16:18 IST
NASA delays human moon landing
NASA delays human moon landing

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that it has pushed back its schedule for landing the astronauts on the Moon by a year to 2025, due in part to a protest over the single-source contract that was awarded to Elon Musk’s Space X to build a lunar lender. The news was shared by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

NASA had earlier aimed to return crewed spacecraft to the lunar surface by 2028, after putting a gateway Gateway Space station into orbit around the moon in 2024. The initiative was named ‘Artemis’.

However, the Trump administration in 2019, in a surprise pronouncement from the then Vice-President Mike Pence, set a deadline for putting the American’s back on the moon within 5 years (by 2024) ‘by any means necessary.

Why NASA is delaying human moon landing?

1. Nelson from NASA said, “We’ve lost nearly 7 months in litigation and that likely has pushed the first human landing likely to no earlier than 2025.” He was referring to a court decision last week rejecting a protest by SpaceX rival Blue Origin over the loss of the lunar lander contract.

2. One of the other reasons for the delay is that the original 2024 deadline set up by the Donald Trump administration, former President of the United States, was not grounded in the technical feasibility.

3. Bill Nelson also cited Congress's failure to provide adequate funding to develop a lunar lander in the previous budgets.

4. Bill Nelson has also mentioned the delays caused by the COVID pandemic also played a key role.

Blue Origin litigation and case against NASA: Check details

A federal judge rejected a lawsuit by Jeff Bezos’s space company Blue Origin against the US Government challenging NASA’s decision of awarding a $2.9 billion lunar lander contract to rival billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

The ruling has now allowed NASA to resume its collaboration with SpaceX on the lander contract.

Reportedly, an uncrewed lunar landing is also scheduled to take place before the 2025 human mission aiming to put two astronauts on the lunar South Pole.

Impact-

NASA administrator Bill Nelson had cited delays from the legal wrangling over the SpaceX contract to build the Artemis lunar landing vehicle as a major reason for extending the target date.

Nelson informed that NASA lost nearly 7 months in litigation, and that likely has pushed the first human landing likely to no earlier than 2025. He added that the agency has now been estimating no earlier than 2025 for Artemis 3, which will be the human lander on the first demonstration landing.

Artemis 3

Artemis 3 is the first crewed moon landing mission of the Artemis Program and the third planned flight of NASA’s Orion Spacecraft of the Space Launch System. Artemis 3, which is now scheduled to launch in 2025, is planned to be the second crewed Artemis mission and the first crewed lunar landing since Apollo 17 in 1972.

US against China in Space

Even though the updated schedule does not affect the later US lunar missions, Bill Nelson warned that the United States finds itself in a race with China to return humans on the Moon for the first time since the final US Apollo landing in December 1972.

He said that the Chinese Space Program has been increasingly capable of landing the Chinese astronauts much earlier than originally expected.

The very first Apollo landing on the moon in July 1969 had ended an earlier space race that pitted the US against the former Soviet Union.

US’s human missions to moon: Background

The US Apollo program sent six human missions to the moon from 1969 to 1972, the only crewed spaceflights yet to reach the lunar surface.

The Artemis Program is aimed at eventually establishing a long-term human colony on the moon as a precursor to sending astronauts to Mars.

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