According to leaked documents acquired by Ars Technica, NASA’s goals to take astronauts back to the surface of the Moon are jeopardized.
The documents state that NASA is having problems with tight budget constraints. It is a probability that the agency’s Artemis III mission which is the first crewed mission to the lunar surface will be pushed back from its original 2025 date.
In other words, the original goal of reaching the lunar surface by 2024, as determined by the Trump administration now appears like an unrealistic target.
Revised schedules in the document show that the agency is preparing for more impending delays, distinguishing between “baseline” dates, the schedule as it stands, a “cadence” schedule that would prioritize regular launches, and a “content” program that would only launch when each component of each mission is ready.
Under the “content” schedule, the Artemis III mission does not seem to be launched until 2026, with a rover making its way to the lunar surface not before 2032, as opposed to the currently estimated 2030.
The agency is also considering a short-term mission between Artemis III and Artemis IV — the projected launch of NASA’s Gateway, a space station in lunar orbit — to fill an otherwise three-year gap, according to Ars.
However, there’s one problem with launching the Gateway: the rocket configuration of the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS), called Block 1B, is not ready yet. In fact, just the tower it’s building for the launch of this SLS iteration is already way over budget and behind schedule.
Then there’s SpaceX’s Starship, also under contract with NASA to send astronauts to the lunar surface, which appears larger and more capable than the Gateway, Ars points out — a business reality that could turn the small orbital outpost into an extremely expensive and redundant platform.
NASA is still establishing the schedule of returning the first NASA astronauts to the Moon since the early 1970s and the projected dates just seem to be not working.