NASA on Tuesday delayed putting astronauts back on the moon until 2025 at the earliest.
The space agency had been aiming for 2024.
In announcing the delay, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said that the US Congress did not provide enough money to develop a landing system for its Artemis moon program and more money is needed for its Orion capsule.
In addition, a legal challenge by Jeff Bezos’ rocket company, Blue Origin, stalled work for months on the Starship lunar landing system under development by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Officials said that technology for new spacesuits also needs to ramp up before astronauts can return to the moon.
NASA is still targeting February for the first test flight of its moon rocket, the Space Launch System with an Orion capsule.
No one is to be on board.
Instead, astronauts are to strap in for the second Artemis flight, flying beyond the moon, but not landing in 2024, a year later than planned.
That would bump the moon landing to at least 2025, Nelson said.
“The human landing system is a crucial part of our work to get the first woman and the first person of color to the lunar surface, and we are getting geared up to go,” Nelson told reporters. “NASA is committed to help restore America’s standing in the world.”
Nelson made note of China’s ambitious and aggressive space program, and warned that it could overtake the US in lunar exploration.
Separately, four astronauts returned to Earth on Monday, riding home with SpaceX to end a 200-day space station mission that began last spring.
Their capsule streaked through the late night sky like a dazzling meteor before parachuting into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.
Recovery boats quickly moved in with spotlights.
“On behalf of SpaceX, welcome home to Planet Earth,” SpaceX Mission Control radioed from Southern California.
Within an hour, all four astronauts were out of the capsule, exchanging fist bumps with the team on the recovery ship.
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