The space agency blamed a number of technical issues, including problems with the Orion spacecraft's life support systems and heat shield.
The revised timetable will also push back NASA’s Artemis III mission to return humans to the moon itself to September 2026. It’s not yet known whether the complications will affect Australia’s plans to send a rover to the moon to pave the way for a human base.
NASA administrator Bill Nelson said the safety of astronauts onboard was the “top priority”, and teams had learned a lot from the uncrewed Artemis I test mission that blasted off in late 2022.
Amit Kshatriya, the deputy associate administrator in charge of the Moon to Mars program at NASA, told reporters that problems with the valves in Orion’s life support system were the main reason behind the delay.
While the component set to be used for the Artemis II blast-off has been tested successfully and installed, another destined for Artemis III failed.
“It became very clear to us that it was unacceptable to accept that hardware, and we need to replace it in order to guarantee the safety of the crew,” Kshatriya said.
NASA added it was also troubleshooting a battery issue, challenges with air ventilation onboard the spaceship, and the “unexpected loss of char layer pieces” from Orion’s heat shield during Artemis I.
“Artemis is a long-term exploration campaign to conduct science at the moon with astronauts and prepare for future human missions to Mars,” said Kshatriya.
“That means we must get it right as we develop and fly our foundational systems so that we can safely carry out these missions.
“Crew safety is and will remain our number one priority.”
The delays come despite the success of the Artemis I test mission in December 2022, which saw Orion fly around the moon without crew for 26 days.
Its re-entry broke records, being the hottest and fastest re-entry of any spacecraft in history as it “skipped” off the Earth’s atmosphere to burn off excess speed.
Once safely in the ocean, the capsule was picked up by a US Navy ship, the USS Portland, to be transported back to the US.
Space Connect previously reported how the eventual crew of Artemis II will include the first woman and person of colour to fly within the vicinity of the moon.
Mission specialist Christina Hammock Koch and pilot Victor Glover will be among a team of four that will embark on the 10-day test mission.
Also on board will be commander Reid Wiseman and second mission specialist Jeremy Hansen, who will be the first Canadian on a lunar mission.
Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.
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