NASA has announced additional delays to its Artemis moon program, pushing the first astronaut lunar landing in half a century to 2026. This setback affects the first two Artemis missions involving astronauts, with Artemis 3, the initial crewed moon landing using SpaceX’s Starship, now scheduled for September 2026 instead of late 2025 as initially planned. The precursor mission, Artemis 2, involving four astronauts flying Lockheed’s Orion capsule around the moon and back, is now set for September 2025. These delays, according to NASA administrator Bill Nelson, aim to provide the Artemis teams with more time to address challenges faced by industry partners.

The decision to reschedule recognizes the real development challenges experienced by NASA’s industry partners, said Amit Kshatriya, head of NASA’s moon and Mars exploration strategy. Issues surrounding Orion’s heat shield, batteries, and electrical system contribute to the delays. NASA’s astronauts will travel to the moon using multiple spacecraft, transferring from Orion to SpaceX’s Starship system in space. SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, faces its own challenges, including docking and refueling “tanker” Starships in orbit, a crucial step in transporting astronauts beyond Earth’s orbit. Jessica Jensen, SpaceX’s vice president, emphasized the need for approximately 10 Starship launches to fill the orbital fuel station, downplaying concerns about fuel transfer challenges and highlighting their experience with Crew Dragon capsule docking events in orbit. These delays underscore the complexity and demanding nature of space exploration.