The National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Tuesday announced its plans to postpone the Artemis II and Artemis III missions, which are designed to return astronauts to the moon. NASA said the revised schedule will allow teams to work through challenges associated with first-time developments, operations, and integration
The Artemis III mission, which is set to be the first crewed moon landing of the program, is now scheduled for September 2026, as opposed to its previous target of late 2025. This mission is crucial as it will involve the use of SpaceX’s Starship, a key element in NASA’s long-term lunar exploration plans. Artemis II, the mission preceding the lunar landing and involving a crewed flyby of the moon, is also delayed to September 2025. However, the Artemis IV, the first mission to the Gateway lunar space station, remains on track for 2028, NASA said.
While the postponement has pushed back the timeline for the first astronaut lunar landing since the Apollo era to 2026, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson emphasized that these delays are part of a strategic decision to allow the Artemis teams more time to resolve existing challenges. He reiterated that safety remains the top priority as the agency prepares for these groundbreaking missions.
The delays are attributed to various technical issues, including concerns with the Orion spacecraft’s heat shield and electrical systems. The Orion spacecraft, which is built by Lockheed Martin, is designed to transport astronauts from Earth to lunar orbit. These challenges require additional time for testing and resolution to ensure the safety and success of the missions.
“We are letting the hardware talk to us so that crew safety drives our decision-making. We will use the Artemis II flight test, and each flight that follows, to reduce risk for future Moon missions,” NASA associate administrator, Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate Catherine Koerner said. “We are resolving challenges associated with first-time capabilities and operations, and we are closer than ever to establishing sustained exploration of Earth’s nearest neighbor under Artemis.”
Meanwhile, NASA is also working with its commercial partners, including SpaceX and Blue Origin, to develop future capabilities for large cargo deliveries to the moon.
To recap, the U.S. space agency launched the Artemis I mission with the gigantic Space Launch System, the most powerful rocket in history, carrying the Orion spacecraft on November 16 2022. NASA concluded its unmanned test mission – Artemis I – after its Orion spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific on December 11.