SpaceX Starship Delays Push Back First NASA Moon Mission Since 1972

SpaceX Starship Delays Push Back First NASA Moon Mission Since 1972

Having your spaceship not explode is probably something that NASA would consider to be mission-critical, and SpaceX is having trouble meeting that metric. It’s been a little over 50 years since NASA took people from Earth and put them on the surface of the moon, so it’s important that this mission goes off without a hitch. It would be pretty embarrassing for modern space travel to be eclipsed by early 1970s technology. SpaceX has blown up a lot of spaceships—most recently on November 18—as a result, NASA will push back its planned 2025 Starship launch to September 2026.

NASA also pushed back the launch of Artemis 2, which was expected to go down later this year, now on the docket for September 2025. The mission is intended to be a crewed journey out to the moon, around it, and back. The expected push back comes after recently discovered issues with Lockheed Martin’s Orion capsule. Obviously Artemis 2 was intended to launch before Artemis 3.

SpaceX has been pushing its employees harder and harder in recent years, as the failures mounted. The Starship module is the largest and most powerful rocket ever flown, and it is intended to be reusable, with two stages meant to be recoverable after a mission and reused. SpaceX launched two 165-foot stainless steel rockets in 2023, both missions ending in a large explosion.

NASA’s plan is to have the Starship full of astronauts launch and rendezvous with additional Starship units waiting in Earth orbit to transfer additional fuel and the moon landing unit. Basically SpaceX needs to build a big gas station in space. From there, the Starship will rendezvous with an Orion craft in lunar orbit. At that point the astronauts will be ferried down to the surface.

In order for the NASA mission to move forward, SpaceX will need to prove it can achieve stable orbit, it can effectively transmit fuel from one craft to another, and its ability to make a safe and soft landing on the lunar surface. That’s a lot to prove, and it’ll be difficult as the FAA recently grounded all Starship tests pending proof that they won’t keep blowing up.

Artemis 1, an un-crewed Orion capsule mission around the moon and back was successfully mounted in 2022.

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