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I am now in the third week of my annual February birthday fund-raising drive. The first two weeks were good, but not record-setting.


There are still two weeks left in this campaign however. If you have been a regular reader and a fan of my work and have not yet donated or subscribed, please consider doing so. I take no ads, I keep the website clean from pop-ups and annoying demands (most of the time). Thus, I depend entirely on my readers to support me. Though this means I am sacrificing some income, it also means that I remain entirely independent from outside pressure. By depending solely on donations and subscriptions from my readers, no one can threaten me with censorship. You don't like what I write, you can simply go elsewhere.


You can support me either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are five ways of doing so:


1. Zelle: This is the only internet method that charges no fees. All you have to do is use the Zelle link at your internet bank and give my name and email address (zimmerman at nasw dot org). What you donate is what I get.


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GAO: First Artemis manned landing likely delayed to 2027

A new GAO report says that the first Artemis manned landing on the Moon is almost certainly not happen in 2025 as NASA presently wants, but will probably be delayed to 2027.

You can read the report here [pdf]. It clearly references the delays experienced by SpaceX due to regulatory roadblocks, but couches its language carefully so as to lay no blame on the government for those delays, placing the problem entirely on SpaceX instead.

In April 2023, after a 7-month delay, SpaceX achieved liftoff of the combined commercial Starship variant and Super Heavy booster during the Orbital Flight Test. But, according to SpaceX representatives, the flight test was not fully completed due to a fire inside the booster, which ultimately led to a loss of control of the vehicle. Following the launch, the Federal Aviation Administration—which issues commercial launch and reentry licenses—classified the commercial Starship launch as a mishap and required SpaceX to conduct a mishap investigation. The Federal Aviation Administration reviewed the August 2023 mishap report submitted by SpaceX and, as a result, cited 63 corrective actions for SpaceX to implement before a second test.

SpaceX had planned this demonstration as the first test flight of the booster stage, as well as the first test with the Starship riding on the booster and the whole system experiencing stage separation. However, SpaceX representatives said their Autonomous Flight Safety System initiated the vehicle self-destruct sequence and the vehicle began to break up about 4 minutes into the flight after the vehicle deviated from the expected trajectory, lost altitude, and began to tumble. HLS [Human Landing System] officials said that while the flight test was terminated early, it still provided data for several Starship technologies, including propellant loading, launch operations, avionics, and propulsion behavior.

GAO graphic

Note how this language makes it seem like the launch was a failure, when in fact SpaceX never expected it to reach orbit and instead intended to use the problems that occurred during this engineering test launch to find out what engineering designs needed to be reworked.

This language illustrates the fundamental dishonesties that routinely permeate government actions. The funniest and most absurd example of this intellectual dishonesty however has to be the graphic posted to the right, taken from the GAO report. The graphic gives the false impression that Orion and Lunar Gateway are far larger than Starship, when in fact, several of both could easily fit inside Starship’s planned cargo bay. In fact, when Starship finally docks with Lunar Gateway the size difference is going to make NASA’s effort here seem very picayune. Apparently, the GAO (or possibly NASA) decided it needed to hide this reality.

The real problem NASA’s Artemis program faces is red tape coming from the FAA and Fish & Wildlife. The GAO fails to note this fact, which makes its report far less helpful than it could have been.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • David Ross

    I thought the launchpad was the mishap. I was fine with some inspections of that. Those problems were clearly corrected by November (actually more like by June).
    I agree that the various agencies did not need to spend as much time as they spent.
    As for GAO, what a load of cowardice their report is.

  • Trent Castanaveras

    That pictogram is the typical “mine is bigger than yours” statement I’ve come to expect from every management, bureaucrat, expert and authority figure. What a crock.

  • MDN

    I bet SpaceX has the Starship side well in hand by late 2025 if the bureaucrats will allow them to launch at least 10 times a year starting in Q1 next year. Most likely they won’t though, because these fellow agencies will find a myriad of procedural “issues” SpaceX will need to address so they can delay Starship long enough to hide the delays in their pile of bull puckey Lunar Gateway and Orion programs. And with that goal I suspect even 2027 is too ambitious so they’ll need to find more mindless rules that SpaceX (but not they) will need to adhere to.

    Here’s hoping Trump can pull out a win next year and bring a summary end to this BS, because absent that this is what we are facing for the foreseeable future.

  • Jeff Wright

    The GAO dumps on spaceflight in general.

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