Status: 06.12.2023, 04:55 a.m.
By: Tanja Banner
Nasa plans to send humans to the moon in 2025. However, a new report casts doubt on the viability of this ambitious project.
Washington D.C. – No man has been on the moon for more than 50 years – but if the US has its way, that is about to change. The next moon landing of the Americans is targeted for 2025 – at least so far. But the ambitious goal may be too ambitious, as a recent report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), comparable to the German Federal Court of Auditors, shows. "We have determined that the lunar landing mission is unlikely to take place in 2025 as planned," the report reads.
This report, commissioned by the U.S. House of Representatives, reveals weaknesses in NASA's "Artemis" lunar program. Two aspects seem to be particularly problematic: the spacesuits developed by the company Axiom and the so-called "Human Landing System" (HLS), the lunar module with which the astronauts are ultimately supposed to land on the moon.
Moon landing 2025: SpaceX's lunar module causes delays
The lunar module in particular poses an enormous challenge. Their development is estimated to take 79 months from the start of the project to the rocket launch – 13 months less than NASA needs for other medium-sized projects, according to the U.S. General Accounting Office. "The complexity of human spaceflight suggests that it is unrealistic to expect the program to complete development more than a year faster than the average of NASA's large-scale projects, most of which are not human spaceflight projects," the report notes.
|took place in November 2022 - Unmanned Nasa capsule flew around the moon
|scheduled for November 2024 - first manned flight around the moon, without landing
|planned for December 2025 - first moon landing since 1972
If the development of the lunar module takes as long as the average major NASA project, then the "Artemis III" mission, in which the lunar module is needed for the first time, "would likely take place in early 2027," the GAO warns. The lunar module that Nasa is betting on for the next moon landing is already in development and has already attracted public attention: it is SpaceX's "Starship". The upper stage of the gigantic rocket is the Starship spacecraft, which is expected to make the moon landing possible again from 2025.
"Starship" test flights delayed – Is the moon landing postponed because of this?
But SpaceX is lagging behind in development, as the GAO details out. By September 2023, eight out of 13 key events had been delayed by at least six months. Two of them would even have been postponed until 2025 – the year of the planned moon landing.
As one of the reasons for the delays, the U.S. Court of Auditors cites the first test flight of the "Starship", which took place only seven months late in April 2023 and then had to be aborted during the flight. A second test flight of the "Starship" has now taken place, but has not yet been included in the GAO's assessment.
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Nasa relies on private space travel for the 2025 moon landing
The private space company SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, still has a lot of complex technical tasks to complete to make the next moon landing possible, according to the GAO. In addition to obvious aspects such as the launch and flight of the rocket, this also includes the refueling of the "Starship" in space as well as a landing and subsequent launch from the lunar surface.
Axiom, the second space company that Nasa is counting on for the 2025 moon landing, is also mentioned in the report. Axiom is developing modernized spacesuits, "but there is still a lot of work to be done to solve design problems," according to the GAO.
This is what it should look like when SpaceX's "Starship" as a lunar module brings the next humans to the moon. But 2025 seems too early to experts. (Archive image) © IMAGO/SpaceX
Nasa wants to review schedule of the lunar module
The report shows that Nasa is aware of the problems and delays in the "Artemis" program. "In the course of our work, Nasa stated that it was reviewing the timetable for the development of the lunar module," it notes. For the first time, in August 2023, a high-ranking NASA employee publicly expressed doubts about the timetable for the moon landing. At that time, too, the focus was primarily on SpaceX and the planned lunar module.
Nasa's original plan to land on the moon as early as 2024 dates back to former U.S. President Donald Trump. After the end of Trump's term, the new head of NASA, Bill Nelson, declared that 2024 was "not a technically feasible goal". One now assumes "a date no earlier than 2025". It is quite possible that this date will have to be postponed again. (tab)
The editor wrote this article and then used an AI language model to optimize it at their own discretion. All information has been carefully verified.