NASA is delaying plans to return astronauts to the Moon for the first time in half a century, announcing its call Tuesday as a much-hyped private U.S. lunar lander mission looked set to fail.
Meanwhile China’s ambitions for deep space exploration continue with a target of 2030 set for a crewed Moon landing.
NASA revealed it will now shoot for September 2026, instead of December 2025, to land the first astronauts near the moon’s south pole with Artemis III.
Artemis IV, the first mission to the Gateway lunar space station, remains on track for 2028. Gateway is a lunar base that NASA plans to build on the surface of the moon.
“In order to safely carry out our upcoming Artemis missions to the moon with astronauts, we are now targeting September 2025 for Artemis II and September 2026 for Artemis III,” NASA wrote Tuesday in a post on X. “Safety is our top priority.”
Among the safety issues NASA teams are currently troubleshooting is a battery problem and an issue with a circuitry component that runs air ventilation and temperature control.
NASA’s new plan announcement for a crewed Moon landing came as the American company that launched a mission on Monday to try to soft-land on the Moon says it may not be able to control its spacecraft for much longer.
Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic is fighting a fuel leak from its Peregrine lander, which is making it hard to maintain stable pointing of the spacecraft, the BBC reports.
Mission life could now be measured in just hours, the firm said.
Certainly, a touch-down on the lunar surface — the first for the U.S. in more than half a century — is no longer possible, even as other countries lift their ambitions and aim for a new presence in space.
“At this time the goal is to get Peregrine as close to lunar distance as we can before it loses the ability to maintain its Sun-pointing position and subsequently loses power,” a statement from Astrobotic read.
As Breitbart News reported, the 1.2-tonne lander was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with the intention of landing on the Moon’s northern hemisphere in late February.
NASA had purchased capacity on the lander for five instruments to study the lunar surface environment ahead of sending its own astronauts there in the now-delayed Moon mission.
The last time the U.S. launched a crewed Moon mission was in December 1972.
Apollo 17’s Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt became the 11th and 12th men to walk on the lunar surface, closing out an era that has remained NASA’s pinnacle.