NASA’s Artemis mission to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 is being delayed and costly, an assessment by the space agency’s watchdog has revealed.
A new report from NASA’s Inspector General (OIG) found the agency was likely to exceed its 2024 target by “several years” as delays and technical challenges impacted the mission’s schedule.
The OIG also criticized the cost of the lunar landing project, saying NASA “lacks a comprehensive and accurate cost estimate” of the program.
In total, the mission could cost $93 billion by 2025, according to the OIG.
Last week, the US space agency pushed back the expected date for a moon landing to 2025. The delay was partly due to legal action by Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin, which was suing NASA after losing in an attempt to build a lunar landing vehicle for the Artemis program.
In a statement, NASA said the US Congress had not allocated “sufficient funds” for the agency to award lunar lander contracts to more than one private company.
NASA said the delay was also due to “first-time development challenges” and the 2024 deadline set by the former Trump administration “not technically feasible.”
NASA “understates” the cost.
In its report, the OIG noted that NASA used a rough estimate for the cost of the first three Artemis missions “that excludes $25 billion for key activities related to planned missions beyond Artemis III.” .
The report also accused NASA of “failing to produce an official cost estimate for the Artemis program” and said it “underestimated the true funding needs” of the exploration project.
NASA’s cost estimate for the program excluded spending on developing the Space Launch System (SLS) — the replacement for the space shuttle launch vehicle that was retired in 2011 — and the Gateway, a space station designed to orbit the moon and intended to serve as Outpost for astronauts in the Artemis program.
In its cost estimate, the OIG said NASA expected to spend $93 billion on the program through 2025, and at least $4.1 billion on the first four Artemis missions euros) costs per start.
In a written response, NASA said it had restructured its Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate organization to ensure effective management and that it had agreed to invest in its arm for exploration systems development according to “measurable cost reduction goals.” Looking for.
When will we land on the moon?
Artemis I, the first stage of the lunar landing mission, was originally scheduled to launch this month, but NASA’s own estimates have pushed back the launch of the unmanned lunar orbiter to February 2022.
The OIG report is more cautious, saying Artemis I has a “higher likelihood of launch – by our estimate – by the summer of 2022.”
Artemis II – which will see a human crew fly 40,000 miles beyond the moon before returning to Earth – is facing delays from the Artemis I mission, the OIG said.
A key issue for the mission is parts availability. To save money, NASA plans to reuse parts from the Orion spacecraft used in Artemis I for the follow-up mission.
Artemis I delays could therefore delay subsequent launches.
“NASA will likely face schedule delays due to the reuse and installation of Orion components after Artemis I and a tight timeline for delivery of the Orion Service Module,” the OIG report said.
Artemis III, the mission that would take humans to the moon for the first time since 1972, faces numerous problems of its own.
A lunar lander to be built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX will likely be delayed by 3.4 years, according to an OIG estimate based on previous space development programs and delays due to Blue Origin’s lawsuit.
NASA’s efforts to develop the next generation of space suits are another bottleneck, the OIG said, after the agency was forced to accelerate its timeline to meet the 2024 deadline for former President Donald Trump’s moon landing.
“The suits will not be ready to fly until May 2025 at the earliest,” the report said.