A senior NASA official raised concerns Wednesday that “difficulties” with SpaceX’s development of the huge new Starship rocket could delay the Artemis program’s first moon landing with astronauts from late 2025, a mission that will use a derivative of the Starship vehicle to ferry a two-person crew to and from the lunar surface.
NASA officials released a nearly five-year, $28 billion plan Monday to return astronauts to the surface of the moon before the end of 2024, but the agency’s administrator said the “aggressive” timeline set by the Trump administration last year hinges on Congress approving $3.2 billion in the next few months to kick-start development of new human-rated lunar landers.
The next time astronauts land on the moon, they will ride to the lunar surface in a spacecraft that looks a lot different than the Apollo-era landing module last used in 1972. Lander concepts proposed by SpaceX, Blue Origin and Dynetics — which won a combined $967 million in NASA funding Thursday — take wildly different approaches to carrying crews to the moon.
The powerful Space Launch System rocket being built for NASA’s Artemis moon program by Boeing, using solid-propellant boosters from Northrop Grumman and main engines from Aerojet Rocketdyne, will have cost more than $18 billion by the time it blasts off on its maiden flight in 2021, NASA’s Office of Inspector General reported Tuesday.