After NASA successfully accomplish its Artemis I mission, the agency is working towards its future Artemis missions. While the preparation for the Artemis II mission is looking promising, NASA associate administrator Jim Free is suggesting that the American space agency may delay its Artemis III lunar landing mission due to rising concerns in the development of the SpaceX Starship lunar lander.
A report from SpaceNews suggests that NASA may be exploring the idea of adjusting the launch date of its Artemis III as the lunar lander vehicle may not be ready in time. The agency plans to land the first humans on the lunar surface for the first time in the 21st century. The mission will also serve as the first human landing on the Moon since Apollo 17 astronauts left the lunar surface in December 1972.
Why NASA is Considering Adjusting Its Artemis III Lunar Landing Mission
On August 9, NASA organized a press briefing at the Kennedy Space Center. During the conference, Free revealed that the agency is considering postponing the Artemis III mission because of hardware delays. Jim Free announced that he kept close monitoring on hardware delays for the NASA Artemis III Lunar landing mission. Even though the mission still retains its formal launch date of December 2025, Free thinks that the agency may adjust the launch date in the future.
“We may end up flying a different mission if that’s the case,” Free explained. “If we have these big slips out, we’ve looked at if can we do other missions.”
Free is suggesting that hardware delays could potentially slow down the progress of the Artemis III mission. During the press briefing, Free received a question about what he meant by other missions, He revealed that NASA is hoping to be more flexible when it comes to hardware progress to meet up with the initial launch date.
“One thing we learned from the International Space Station is to make sure we’re flexible so we keep human spaceflight viable,” he explained.
Free suggested with this statement that the ISS program had altered the assembly sequence of the station based on changes in available hardware.
“I think it’s incumbent upon us to do that,” Free added. “We’re trying to look at all of the missions that we could fly to keep learning.”
The Progress Made So Far on The Development of Starship Lunar Lander
NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to design the Artemis III lunar lander that will take astronauts to the lunar south pole in April 2021. The American aerospace company conducted the first test flight of its Starship. However, this test ended with an explosion which was initiated manually.
The second test flight of this powerful space vehicle could slip because of the current environmental lawsuit levied against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). But the two prototypes for the fully-stacked Starship have been put to static fire engine test. SpaceX may likely fly these starship systems anytime soon.
On June 9, Free revealed that NASA recently got an updated schedule detailing Starship development from SpaceX during a meeting of the National Academies Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board and Space Studies Board. Even though he did not share detailed information about the update, the NASA official still revealed that Artemis III may slip in 2026 due to Starship hardware delays.
During the August 9 briefing, he said his views hadn’t changed since then. “My concern is the same because they haven’t launched,” Free said during the August 9 briefing. “When we come up with a date, December of 2025 or whatever that date might be, we want to have confidence for our teams that we all have a realistic path to get there,” he added.
As NASA prepares for its Artemis II mission, it is exploring the possibilities of adjusting its Artemis III mission due to hardware delays. However, any change in the development of the starship lunar lander will determine whether NASA will stick to its initial launch date or consider changing it. What do you think about this latest development as regards the delay in launching Artemis III lunar landing mission?