NASA has once again postponed its launch dates, this time claiming serious safety issues, which means that America is falling behind in the race to send a man to the moon.
In an announcement last week, NASA stated that the flights would be postponed due to unresolved difficulties with a battery, the heat shield, and a circuitry component that controls temperature and air ventilation.
Artemis II, the first crewed lunar orbital mission, was rescheduled for September 2025. Artemis III, the first crewed mission to set foot on the moon since 1972, was rescheduled until September 2026. November of this year was the initial date for Artemis II, while December of 2025 was the intended date for Artemis III.
NASA reports that the Artemis IV mission, which is scheduled to land humans at the Gateway lunar space station in 2028, is still on schedule. Originally scheduled to launch in November 2018, Artemis I was an unmanned test flight; however, it was not launched until November 2022.
The ultimate aim of the Artemis mission series is to get ready for Mars missions including humans.
During their hearing on Wednesday before the House Science and Space panel, NASA representatives provided an explanation for the delays.
The subcommittee restated the country’s objective of sending a human crew to the moon within ten years and underlined the significance of outpacing other nations in this regard, as the first nation to do so would set the standard for future lunar operations. Lawmakers particularly mentioned China.
The Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) William Russell voiced concerns about NASA’s estimated launch date of Artemis III—which was less than a year after Artemis II.
Russell argued that a year is not enough to complete that learning, make adjustments, and be prepared for a September 2026 launch date.
NASA’s associate administrator for exploration systems development, Catherine Koerner, defended the timeframe. According to Koerner, America continues to lead the race to the moon.
“We believe that we will be on the surface of the moon before China is, and it’s our intent for that to happen,” said Koerner.
According to Koerner, Artemis III vehicle processing would be advanced enough before Artemis II’s launch date to be practical. The 11 industry partners of NASA agreed to the revised launch dates, according to Koerner.
“With Artemis, we’re building a capability: not just a launch capability but a capability in cislunar orbit, capability on the surface of the moon over time,” said Koerner.
Michael Griffin, a former NASA administrator and undersecretary of defense for science and engineering in the Department of Defense, stated that Artemis needs to be restarted in its entirety and that the executive branch would need congressional direction on how to proceed. Griffin stated that while Artemis II was moving along according to plan, Artemis III wasn’t.
“In my judgment, the Artemis program is excessively complex, unrealistically priced, compromises crew safety, poses very high mission risk of completion, and is highly unlikely to be completed in a timely manner to be successful,” said Griffin.
Along with testifying on Wednesday, GAO released a report on NASA’s delays and ongoing significant obstacles.
According to GAO, they anticipated NASA’s announcement of a delay in November; they reported that NASA had an ambitious timeline, critical events were delayed, and a substantial amount of technical work remained.
The GAO also pointed out a lack of openness regarding the mission costs: although requesting $6.8 billion in funding for Artemis III in its fiscal year 2024 budget proposal, NASA has not yet released an official cost estimate. Over the next five years, at least $38 billion has been requested for the upcoming Artemis missions. The GAO pointed out that they first brought attention to the lack of fiscal transparency in 2019 after learning that NASA had no intention of releasing an official cost estimate for Artemis III.
Elon Musk, the CEO of X, launched SpaceX, a business working on a human landing technology, and Axiom Space, which is creating more sophisticated spacesuits, are important partners in the Artemis missions.