Despite Setbacks, NASA Still Eyeing 2024 for Artemis Moon Landing

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This is the Most Critical Year for the Artemis Moon Landing Mission. What Happens in 2020 will Determine What Happens in 2024.

Last year Vice President Pence shocked the space community by announcing a new, much closer, deadline for the Artemis program. Artemis, aptly named after Apollo’s sister, the Greek goddess of the moon, is NASA’s program to ultimately land the first woman and the next man on the moon. Originally, NASA officials set the deadline for the Artemis moon landing for 2028. Then, last spring, the Vice President cut that deadline by four years, demanding that NASA land a woman and man on the moon by 2024. 

Shaving four years off of the deadline certainly makes things more difficult. However, NASA officials have had to endure many other obstacles in the meantime. Those include shakeups in top leadership, along with tough messages and challenges from NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. Additionally, top NASA brass urged Congress to abandon the embattled SLS launch system—to no avail. Add all of this up, and it becomes clear that the 2024 deadline may be a bit unrealistic. However, NASA leadership doesn’t see it that way, and they’re confident that if 2020 is a good year, they’ll pull off the seemingly impossible. 

About the SLS

The SLS, or Space Launch System, is the megarocket Congress insists that NASA use for the Artemis program. Politically, this is likely because the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee (which determines NASA’s budget) is Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama). Shelby’s made something of a pet of the SLS because NASA facilities in Alabama play a key part in the SLS’s construction. 

Over the years, the SLS ran into many setbacks, and the first launch (Artemis 1), had to be postponed. That launch would have happened in November of this year. Instead, officials postponed the launch by nearly a year.

Because of the delays with the SLS, it’s absolutely critical that all of the other components involved in the Artemis moon landing proceed without any setbacks. In the face of such a situation, however, NASA associate administrator Steve Jurcyk remains optimistic.

Jurcyk admitted his surprise when he found out about the shortened deadline. However, he maintains that most within the agency are “excited” about the challenge. The associate administrator spoke during the February 28th Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium, hosted at Johns Hopkins University.

”All the elements to do this [phase] are in development, with one exception,” Jurcyk said during his opening remarks. 

“The one element that we are this close to getting the development kicked off on is the human landing system,” he said. “We are very close to awarding, likely, multiple contracts, one or more contracts, for the human landing system within weeks,” he later added.

Check out this video on NASA’s full Artemis plan:

Optimism in the Face of Adversity

Despite the major setbacks with the SLS, NASA officials seem to be unified in their confidence. Artemis 1, when it finally does launch, will send the Orion crew capsule around the moon. Subsequent Artemis missions will ramp up to the ultimate mission objective: landing the first woman on the moon (and the next man) by 2024.

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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