Nasa’s Lunar Landing Plan Could Miss 2024 Schedule
It is becoming increasingly unlikely that NASA will hit its target date of 2024 to bring the first woman and next man to the moon as part of its Artemis program.
The latest reason is a change in the deadline for submitting proposed designs for human lunar lander systems by three private contractors, reports The Verge.
SpaceX by Elon Musk, Blue Origin by Jeff Bezos, and Dynetics by Leidos were due to be submitted in late February. In the past few days, the space agency announced to the three companies that the date would be extended to April 30th.
NASA said the delay will give it more time to review the companies’ proposals and allow for a “seamless transition” from the development phase of the project.
A report on NASA’s management and performance challenges released in November 2020 provided an early indication that the 2024 schedule to get people back to the moon could slip.
In the report, the Space Agency set out the growing challenges for the Artemis program and admitted for the first time that it will be “difficult” to meet the proposed deadline.
A new government has since entered the White House, focusing on more immediate issues such as the pandemic and the economy. Congressional funding bottlenecks have also put pressure on, forcing NASA to reassess its future work.
NASA will eventually select up to two landing systems from the three proposals currently under development.
This includes the StarsX spaceship, a second stage booster, and a spaceship that will launch on its first stage Super Heavy rocket. A prototype spaceship recently completed a successful test flight at high altitude, but it exploded on return to Earth after a heavy landing. The company is now trying to organize a second test flight.
Blue Origin is working on the Integrated Lander Vehicle, a three-stage lander that would reach the moon using either the company’s New Glenn rocket or the ULA’s Vulcan launch system.
Dynetics is developing the Dynetics Human Landing System, which will be launched into space via the ULA’s Vulcan launch system or NASA’s Space Launch System.
The unmanned Artemis I mission and the Artemis II mission with crew conduct moon flyby so that the landers are not needed. That said, NASA is still hoping to launch the first mission in November 2021, followed by Artemis II in 2023. As for the long-term plan to get the first woman and next man to the lunar surface, many challenges remain .