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NASA admits manned lunar landing can’t happen before ’25

NASA administrator Bill Nelson admitted today that the goal of landing Americans back on the Moon by 2024 was impossible, and that the agency has now delayed that target date one year to 2025.

Nelson attempted to blame the delay on Blue Origin’s lawsuit against NASA for its award of the manned lunar lander contract to SpaceX.

He blamed the shifting timeline on a lawsuit over the agency’s moon lander, to be built by SpaceX, and delays with NASA’s Orion capsule, which is to fly astronauts to lunar orbit. “We’ve lost nearly seven months in litigation, and that likely has pushed the first human landing likely to no earlier than 2025,” Mr. Nelson said, adding that NASA will need to have more detailed discussions with SpaceX to set a more specific timeline.

This however is a bald-faced lie. The Trump 2024 deadline was never realistic. Moreover, delays in SLS and Orion have been continuous and ongoing for years, all of which made a ’24 landing quite difficult and if attempted extremely unsafe. Even as it is, trying this mission by ’25 is risky, especially if it depends on SLS. Moreover, as the article notes, how SLS, Orion, and SpaceX’s Starship will team up to get this mission — designed by a committee — to and from the Moon remains exceedingly unclear.

With great confidence I predict that if the lunar mission depends on SLS in any manner, it will not launch in ’25 either.

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.

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"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


  • Hope NASA astronauts are learning Mandarin, because they’re gonna need it on the Moon.

  • Jeff Wright

    CZ-9 is further behind. Obama killing Ares V is to blame. And the tiresome ‘NASA shouldn’t build rockets’ mantra also is to blame. Invading Iraq also siphoned needed dough. While Mr. Z was skeptical of Hyten-I found the general on Fox today wanting another round of bases in Asia more draining. All goods consumed by Americans need be produced by Americans.

  • Localfluff

    NASA will send men to the Moon again when the Starship is ready to do it. It might happen in 2024 after all. But I think that Trump has to be re-elected in order for someone to give the go ahead order.

  • Richard M

    I often disagree with Keith Cowing, but his commentary yesterday on the presser is just…savage:

    “…NASA wants to cut the cost of flying SLS to 50% of what it is now. So, you ask, how NASA is going to lower the SLS cost to 50% of whatever it is now – if we do not know what it costs – now? Pam Melroy was asked what the current cost is. She avoided answering that but said that NASA wanted to get the SLS per flight cost down to a $1 – $1.5 billion. If you apply a little logic that means that a SLS flight cost somewhere around $2 to $3 billion – but of course that is according to NASA’s math using funny money.​

    “Even if that SLS cost reduction aspirational goal is met, everything else associated with Artemis will still cost more. Because it always costs more. The new projected cost baseline for SLS/Orion – computed from from FY 2012 to the first crewed flight – will be dialed up from $6.7 billion to $9.3 billion. That is up by almost $2.6 billion from the earlier baseline. And then Nelson said that Congress wants a competition for human landers for the 10 or so landings in the notional Artemis storyline. And that is going to cost a lot of money too. Of course the promised windfall that Nelson thought he had discovered in the whole Infrastructure cookie jar never materialized for Artemis.​”

  • Jeff Wright

    He hates it because it employees Red Staters. Drivel like that shows why he is to be ignored. China builds an HLLV why he wants to kill ours. I hope Starship works-but you never know. Keith needs a long walk on a short plank.

  • Richard M

    I’m all for Red State full employment, but…for Pete’s sake, it has to make economic sense.

    An expendable rocket that costs $2-3 billion per launch lifting a mostly expendable crew vehicle that costs a billion a pop to deliver four government employees to cislunar space for a few weeks once a year is not sustainable, especially when operated by an agency that appears congenitally incapable of keeping to budget or schedule objectives.

    Fortunately, private enterprise has a far better alternative in the pipeline. It’s a nice bonus it’s built in a red state.

  • sippin_bourbon

    Eh, that links to NYT. Hit a paywall.
    Sorry, I am not paying an organization that lies to me.

    On other sites, I read a little.
    Few seem to want to mention how Blue O’s lawsuit contributed to the delay.
    Not the sole reason, of course. but still contributed.

    No, I do not think that the 2024 goal was possible either. I do not think Trump/Pence through so either.
    However, I think they knew that if they pushed for 2024, that slipping to 2025 or 2026 was likely, and acceptable.
    I think they also knew that if they let it go all the way to 2028 or later, the odds of it losing its funding and being cut by a later admin for no other reason than it’s association with Trump was pretty high.

  • Jeff Wright

    To Richard M: It made economic sense to do a Mitt Romney jobs overseas-and that free-trade, just-in-time crap put us in this bind as much as Biden. Space capability on a nation level is a must. It can’t just be SpaceX. We need old and new space alike. Economists like Greens have done enough damage.

  • pzatchok

    BO’s lawsuit didn’t contribute to any delay.

    No one stopped working. Not one person said “well bang BO is suing us we better stop production and design until it goes to court.”

    Three executives and a few lawyers belt with this. Part time.

    As for lowering the cost of SLS.
    If you add in the cash already lost on this project NASA would have to get 15 free rockets out of them.

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