That’s one step back for man, one giant leap back for NASA.
The space agency announced it will delay its much-anticipated return to the moon’s surface by a year because of technological challenges that could endanger the crew.
“We are adjusting our schedule to target Artemis II for September of 2025 and September of 2026 for Artemis III, which will send humans for the first time to the lunar south pole,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Tuesday.
The Artemis II mission will launch a crew of four astronauts into orbit around the moon for 10 days. It had been slated to blast off in November.
Artemis III — which was expected to mark the first time US space boots will step on the moon since 1972 — had initially been set for takeoff in 2025.
However, significant hurdles remain in completing the variety of vehicles and equipment needed for the Artemis missions amid a NASA budget that has ballooned to more than $42 billion since the moon-landing program was revived in 2012.
NASA cited a slew of previously “uncovered issues that require additional time to resolve” as reasons for Artemis II’s delay,” including “a battery issue,” “challenges with a circuitry component for air ventilation and temperature control.”
The agency is still investigating an “unexpected loss of char layer pieces from the spacecraft’s heat shield during Artemis” — an unmanned mission that sent the 5.75 million-pound rocket through a six-week test flight around the moon and back in December 2022.
That probe is expected to be concluded in the spring, NASA said.
NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket has been billed as a colossal, next-generation spacecraft that’s the most powerful, complex of its kind in the world.
The project’s big-name companies include Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Axiom Space and RTX’s Collins Aerospace are also developing lunar spacesuits to support the program, CNBC reported.
Artemis III will involve a much higher degree of complexity integrating the SLS-Orion with a series of spacecraft to be built and flown by SpaceX.
Those include SpaceX’s own heavy-duty Starship launch and lunar-landing vehicle, which is still under development, as well as several components that remain to be constructed such as an orbital fuel depot and space tankers to fill it.
Even the new moon-walking spacesuits have yet to be designed despite NASA awarding them in 2022.
The space agency’s Inspector General said that the Artemis II and III missions are expected to cost $4.2 billion per launch.
There is one bright spot. The launch of Artemis IV, a second lunar landing, remains on track for 2028, the agency told The Post on Wednesday, while declining comment on the delays.
“We will have Artemis missions well beyond Artemis IV,” a NASA spokesperson said