Artemis III landing on the Moon in 2024 has always been a lofty goal, but NASA officials stuck to the date even as the previous administration left. Today, they began to officially acknowledge the breakdown of the deadline.
On a call with reporters, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson was asked about an updated timeline for the upcoming Artemis missions to the Moon. His explanation was that due to legal battles over the Human Landing System you could “flip a coin” whether Artemis III will happen in 2024 or not, admitting a delay is possible.
This is the first time we have publicly seen a top NASA official state that 2024 could be off the table for the first crewed landing of the Artemis program. This goal was set back in 2017 by then President Donald Trump.
The original 2024 date held no scientific basis, but was shrouded in politics. Now with the new administration, the current leaders have the ability to refine the deadlines, adapting the schedule to account for delays and what is feasible with the agency’s current toolset.
Blue Origin protest far from only cause of delays
Blue Origin’s lawsuit has been sealed to the public since it began last month, but the lawsuit should reach its conclusion at the beginning of next month. In return for an accelerated legal process, NASA agreed to a stay on SpaceX’s HLS work and payments until November 1st.
NASA’s Space Launch System has also had highly public delays recently. The delivery of the Core Stage for Artemis I was delayed for almost half a year after it shut down early during its first Green Run Test. While this single delay wasn’t the nail in the coffin, SLS has been delayed four years so far.
While Nelson was quick to blame the delay on Blue Origin’s lawsuit, the rumor that an Artemis III 2024 landing would be delayed started long before SpaceX was selected to win the HLS contract. Additionally, the idea that the two-month stay of SpaceX’s contract is what will hold back the landing simply doesn’t make sense. NASA’s Inspector General reported the lunar spacesuits aren’t expected to be ready until at least 2025.