NASA has pushed back the date to send humans to the moon again

In a surprise move, NASA announced Monday that it will push back the date to launch an actual manned spacecraft on a moon landing. The original deadline was initially set for 2033, but has…

NASA has pushed back the date to send humans to the moon again

In a surprise move, NASA announced Monday that it will push back the date to launch an actual manned spacecraft on a moon landing. The original deadline was initially set for 2033, but has now been pushed back to 2025.

“We want to bring down the cost by separating high-cost suborbital flights from the eventual mission,” NASA deputy administrator Dava Newman told Washington Post correspondent Randy James during a briefing.

She explained that the goal would be to develop a step-by-step system that would test technologies for suborbital missions and take humans to the moon using both government and commercial craft.

In anticipation of the forthcoming delay, James points out that NASA has offered to cancel plans to develop its Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. The agency has announced that it is restructuring its near-term space exploration plan, reducing the amount of missions planned between now and 2025.

“NASA is taking the prudent steps to reorganize the way it delivers innovative space systems to the moon to deliver humans again,” said Phil Larson, NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate chief, in a statement. “This announcement paves the way for more rapid and transparent decision-making, reducing human spaceflight risk by moving to a systematic approach to the production of an integrated architecture.”

“Enduring a few more years of uncertainty about when and if we will be able to send Americans to the moon is a small price to pay for greater flexibility and a chance to retool our plans for human spaceflight operations at the International Space Station,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told the Post.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who designed the two-stage Crew Dragon vehicle that is meant to carry astronauts to the space station next year, criticized the decision in a tweet.

“Moving Moon missions to 2025 is not in the US national interest. I mean, going from 1 to 0 in 10 years is crazy. It’s a huge engineering investment & some degree of schedule uncertainty will always be a good thing. Beyond 2024, I don’t see a strategic rationale,” he wrote.

NASA currently plans to deploy a small crew to the space station later this year, and is also mulling the possibility of returning astronauts to the moon in a bid to once again compete for the lead role in space exploration. The agency’s science director noted that the new policies will likely allow the space agency to build a more manageable and lean infrastructure to support future space exploration missions.

Several private companies are already planning a series of ambitious missions to the moon in the coming years, including Virginia-based space exploration company Masten Space Systems, which unveiled its own plans in May to send a space tourist to the moon with the government’s help.

Meanwhile, NASA is developing the Crew Dragon vehicle at Kennedy Space Center. New commercial spaceflight companies, including SpaceX and Blue Origin, also plan to develop their own spaceships in preparation for a larger manned flight set to launch in 2022, followed by a Falcon Heavy rocket with the capability to transport a crew and a spacecraft.

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