nasaspacesuitconcept

This illustration gives an idea of how mobile the new Artemis spacesuits will be.


NASA

The word “ambitious” has been floating around NASA’s Artemis program, which has been aiming to return astronauts to the moon in 2024. A NASA report released this month suggests that 2024 might be a little too ambitious.

The NASA Office of Inspector General released its 2020 Report of Top Management and Performance Challenges (PDF) and “Landing the First Woman and the Next Man on the Moon by 2024” is listed as “Challenge 1.” The office is tasked with oversight duties for NASA programs and operations. 

The Artemis program and its accelerated 2024 human landing schedule were unveiled under the Trump administration in 2019. NASA had originally been eyeing a more distant return date of 2028. The agency sees the moon as a stepping stone to eventually sending humans to Mars.

The report lays out a variety of obstacles to making it back by 2024, including the overall cost of the program, delays with the Space Launch System rocket and the ongoing scheduling impact of the coronavirus pandemic. “Given the multiple challenges outlined above, we believe the agency will be hard-pressed to land astronauts on the moon by the end of 2024,” the report said.

With lingering funding questions and the coming new administration of President-elect Joe Biden, NASA’s moon timeline is looking increasingly uncertain. Current NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is expected to step down after Biden takes office. New leadership may have new ideas about how the Artemis program will work.

The Office of Inspector General report doesn’t completely wipe out the 2024 dream: “At the very least, achieving any date close to this ambitious goal — and reaching Mars in the 2030s — will require strong, consistent, sustained leadership from the president, Congress and NASA, as well as stable and timely funding.”

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