NASA hints it may DELAY moon landing mission: Plan to return humans to the lunar surface by 2025 may slip if Elon Musk’s lander isn’t ready for Artemis III, space agency suggests
- First woman and first person of colour are due to walk on the moon on Artemis III
- The mission is scheduled for 2025 but NASA has hinted this may be pushed back
It has long been feared that NASA’s ambitious target to return human boots to the moon by 2025 would probably end up slipping.
And the US space agency has again suggested as much, by hinting that Artemis III may not involved a crewed landing after all.
If billionaire Elon Musk’s lander is not finished in time a NASA official acknowledged that ‘we may end up flying a different mission’.
Musk’s company SpaceX won the contract for a landing system based on a version of its prototype Starship rocket, which remains far from ready.
An orbital test flight of Starship ended in a dramatic explosion in April.
Frustration: NASA has hinted that it may have to delay its Artemis III moon landing mission if Elon Musk’s lander (pictured in an artist’s impression) isn’t ready for launch in 2025
NASA’s Jim Free said officials had visited SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Texas a few weeks ago to ‘learn where they are with the hardware, trying to understand their schedule some more’
ARTEMIS II ASTRONAUTS GET FIRST LOOK AT THEIR SPACECRAFT
The four astronauts assigned to fly around the moon on Artemis II next year got their first look at their spacecraft yesterday.
Jeremy Hansen, Victor Glover, Reid Wiseman and Christina Koch peeked into their unfinished Orion capsule, red ‘Remove Before Flight’ tags still dangling from it, and came away impressed.
‘Nothing else looks like that … that’s what gave me shivers,’ said Koch.
The four-person crew inspected the capsule during a visit to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, had already said in June that Starship was behind schedule and a 2025 moon landing would likely have to be delayed until 2026 at the earliest.
Free told reporters yesterday that NASA officials had visited SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Texas a few weeks ago to ‘learn where they are with the hardware, trying to understand their schedule some more’.
He said he found the visit insightful but remained concerned ‘because they haven’t launched,’ and will need to do so multiple times before the rocket will be ready.
What’s more, delays to Starship have knock-on effects because the spacesuit contractor needs to know how the suits will interface with the spacecraft, and simulators need to be built for astronauts to learn its systems.
He added that NASA will update the public in the near future once it has had time to ‘digest’ the information gathered during its Starbase visit.
But Free acknowledged that certain key elements would have to be in place to allow Artemis III to put the first woman and first person of colour on the moon as plan – notably the landing system that is being developed by SpaceX.
Starship’s orbital test flight in April aimed to send the vehicle’s upper stage most of the way around Earth before splashing down in the ocean near Hawaii.
But the vehicle’s two stages failed to separate as planned, forcing SpaceX to deliberately destroy Starship over the Gulf of Mexico less than four minutes after lift off.
Musk’s Starship Super Heavy Booster 9 completed a static fire at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas on Sunday
What happened to Starship? It had been a decade in the making but took less than four minutes for the world’s most powerful rocket to go from historic lift off to a ball of flames in April
It is unclear when Starship will launch again at this stage.
Under the Artemis program, NASA is planning a series of missions of escalating complexity to return to the moon and build a sustained presence in order to develop and test technologies for an eventual journey to Mars.
The first, Artemis I, flew an uncrewed spacecraft around the Moon in 2022. Artemis II, planned for November 2024, will do the same with crew on board.
But it is during the Artemis III mission that NASA plans to send humans to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972, this time on the lunar south pole, where the ice can be harvested and turned into rocket fuel.
NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the moon in 2025 as part of the Artemis mission
Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the moon in Greek mythology.
NASA has chosen her to personify its path back to the moon, which will see astronauts return to the lunar surface by 2025 – including the first woman and the next man.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars.
Artemis 1 will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s deep space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Artemis 1 will be an uncrewed flight that will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration, and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the moon and beyond.
During this flight, the spacecraft will launch on the most powerful rocket in the world and fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown.
It will travel 280,000 miles (450,600 km) from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the moon over the course of about a three-week mission.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars. This graphic explains the various stages of the mission
Orion will stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking to a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before.
With this first exploration mission, NASA is leading the next steps of human exploration into deep space where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems near the moon needed for lunar surface missions and exploration to other destinations farther from Earth, including Mars.
The will take crew on a different trajectory and test Orion’s critical systems with humans aboard.
Together, Orion, SLS and the ground systems at Kennedy will be able to meet the most challenging crew and cargo mission needs in deep space.
Eventually NASA seeks to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon by 2028 as a result of the Artemis mission.
The space agency hopes this colony will uncover new scientific discoveries, demonstrate new technological advancements and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy.
Who is Victor Glover? The man set to become NASA’s first black astronaut to orbit the moon
Victor Glover (pictured) was selected as an astronaut in 2013 and became the first African American ISS expedition crewmember to live on the ISS seven years later
NASA is set to send the first-ever black astronaut to the moon.
Victor Glover, 46, was selected to take part in the space agency’s Artemis II mission — the US’ first lunar mission in a half-century.
The Pomona, California, native will be the first person of color to travel into deep space, hundreds of thousands of miles beyond the low-Earth orbiting International Space Station (ISS).
NASA officials say the diverse crew assignments signify the cultural shifts that have taken place since the original Apollo missions, which ended in 1972, at a time when white men dominated space exploration.
Glover was also the first black man to ever live on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2020 and is among 15 African Americans to be selected as an astronaut.
In his esteemed career since being selected as an astronaut in 2013, Mr Glover has logged over 3,000 flight hours in 40 different aircraft.
Artemis II – which will launch in November 2024 – will see the four-man crew orbit the moon in the Orion spacecraft but not land.
Their goal is to test new technology, including heat shields that protects Orion as it travels 24,500 mph in 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit on its way back.
If successful, NASA plans to launch an expedition to land on the moon titled Artemis III. Another success would spell out a trip to Mars for NASA.
‘I wanna thank God for this Amazing opportunity,’ Mr Glover said during a new conference Monday.
‘This is a big day. We have a lot to celebrate. It’s so much more than the four names that have been announced. We need to celebrate this moment in human history.
‘Artermis II is more than a mission to the Moon and back. It’s more than a mission that has to happen before we send people to the surface of the moon. It is the next step on the journey that gets humanity to Mars.
‘This crew will never forget that.’
Mr Glover was born in 1976 in Pomona, around 30 miles east of Los Angeles.
The city is far from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, known for its high poverty rate and relatively high crime.
Mr Glover grew up in Ponoma, CA, 30 miles east of Los Angeles
He said his parents and teachers served as mentors as him growing up.
‘Early on in life it had to be my parents; they encouraged me and challenged me and held me to high standards. Outside of home, I had teachers that did the same,’ he told USA Today in 2017.
‘They all challenged me, and they encouraged me.’
Mr Glover continued that his teachers and parents urged him to go the engineering school and eventually become a test pilot — leading to him becoming an astronaut.
He graduated from Southern California’s Ontario High School in 1994, and went on to attend California Polytechnic State University, before completing his graduate education at Air University and the US Naval Academy.
‘I’m the first person in my family to graduate from college, and being at graduation with my mom and my dad and my stepdad and my little brothers and my grandparents,’ he said to USA Today.
‘That was unreal, that was cool and it was special for me.’
In 1999 he was commissioned as part of the US Navy. After completing flight training in Corpus Christy, Texas, he was ‘given his wings’ and awarded the title of pilot in 2001.
He then moved to San Diego to learn to fly the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, known as one of the Navy’s more versatile aircraft.
After spending the next two years training in Florida and Virginia, he was deployed to Iraq in 2004 for six months.
Mr Glover was working in the office of the late Sen John McCain as a legislative fellow when he was selected by NASA to become an astronaut in 2013.
NASA only selects a handful of the thousands of people that apply to be a member of the nation’s astronaut corps each year. Only 15 black astronauts have ever been selected out of 348.
A vast majority of the 41 current astronauts have a military background, like Mr Glover.
He completed his astronaut training in 2015. Three years later, he was selected to be a part of the first ever operational flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, a reusable aircraft designed by the firm Elon Musk found in 2002.
As part of that mission, he would live on the ISS from November 17, 2020 to May 2, 2021.
The nearly six-month-long stay on the station makes him the first black astronaut to inhabit it.
Jeanette Epps, 52, who was selected to be an astronaut in 2009 is set to become the second African American, and first black woman, to live on the ISS after the launch of Boeing Starliner-1 in 2024 or later.
In 2020, Mr Glover said it was an honor to be the first black person selected to the ISS.
‘It is something to be celebrated once we accomplish it, and I am honored to be in this position and to be a part of this great and experienced crew,’ he said during a news conference.
‘I look forward to getting up there and doing my best to make sure, you know, we are worthy of all the work that’s been put into setting us up for this mission.’
In an interview with The Christian Chronicle later that year, he said there were qualified black astronauts that should have earned the honor before him.
‘I’ve had some amazing colleagues before me that really could have done it, and there are some amazing folks that will go behind me,’ he said.
‘I wish it would have already been done, but I try not to draw too much attention to it.’
Who is Christina Koch? The first female NASA astronaut set to orbit the moon
Christina Koch is set to become the first woman to go around the moon when NASA’s Artemis II mission takes off next year.
Christina Koch, 44, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, is set to become the first woman to go around the moon
The Grand Rapids, Michigan native, 44, is already the record-holder for the longest amount of time a woman has spent in space, 328 days, and for taking part in the first all-female spacewalk in 2019.
Selected to become an astronaut in 2013, Ms Koch said she has not followed a ‘checklist’ in order to become an astronaut — but instead chased her passions whether this be rock climbing, sailing or even learning to surf in her 40s.
She said in 2020: ‘I really don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be an astronaut.
‘For me, I learned that if I was going to be an astronaut, it was because my passions had turned me into someone that could contribute the most as someone contributing to human space flight.’
While she’s exploring space, her husband Robert will be left taking care of housework and the couple’s puppy, LBD. It is not believed that they have children.
‘Am I excited? Absolutely!’ she said at a news conference at the crew’s announcement Monday.
‘The one thing I’m most excited about is that we will carry your excitement,your aspirations, your dreams, on this mission.’
She also said: ‘We are going to launch from Kennedy space center, we are going to here the words “go for launch” on top of the most powerful rocket NASA’s ever made.’
NASA has sent a total of 355 people to space so far, of which some 55 have been women — or 15 percent. It has also sent 24 people to orbit the moon and 12 to walk on the lunar surface who were all men.
Russian Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to ever leave the earth’s atmosphere — setting off in 1937. American women did not get sent to space until 1983.
Ms Koch, however, will make history on the Artemis II mission when she completes her long-awaited trip around the moon.
She revealed her love of space in a video when she was announced as a member of the Artemis I team in 2020.
The astronaut said: ‘I am someone who has loved exploration on the frontier since I was little.
‘I used to be inspired by the night sky and throughout my career, it’s been this balance between engineering for space science missions and doing science in really remote places all over the world.
‘I loved things that made me feel small, things that made me ponder the size of the universe, my place in it and everything that was out there to explore.’
She added: ‘I didn’t necessarily live my life following check boxes of how you could become an astronaut.
‘But I followed those passions and one day I looked at what I had become and the skills I had gathered and I asked “could I sit across from a table and present myself as someone who could do this well?”. And I thought, I’m going to give this a shot.’
She went to North Carolina State University in Raleigh to get a bachelor’s and a master’s in Electrical Engineering.
She then became an Electrical Engineer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, before becoming a research associate for the United States Antarctic Program — living an entire year in the Arctic.
Ms Koch was one of eight selected as part of NASA’s 21st class of astronauts in 2013. After two years of training, she became a full-fledged astronaut.
Her first space flight came in 2019 when she was sent to the International Space Station (ISS) to work as a flight engineer.
She stayed up there for 328 days, taking the record for the longest spaceflight by a woman. The previous record holder, Peggy Whitson, was in space for 288 days.
While in space she also took the record for the first all-women space walk — when an astronaut gets out of a vehicle while in space — with Jessica Meir.
The pair spent seven hours and 17 minutes on the side of the ISS as they worked to replace a power controller. The walk also included a brief call with President Trump.
Upon her return to Earth in 2020, Ms Koch said she felt ‘like a baby’ who was two weeks old and working hard to hold up its head.
Back on Earth, she lives in Galveston, Texas, just outside of the Houston area.
Among her interests are backpacking, running, yoga, photography and travel.
Now she will be a part of a groundbreaking mission in NASA’s goal towards putting a man on Mars.
The Artemis II mission marks NASA’s first trip to the moon in half a century. It says it will be performed to help test kit in preparation for getting humans onto Mars.
The agency sent an empty Orion capsule around the moon last year before it returned to Earth in a long-awaited dress rehearsal.
If this latest mission goes well, then another flight to land people on the moon will be sent in 2025 — as part of tests ahead of getting people onto Mars.
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