NASA has postponed the return of humans to the Moon: when will the Artemis II mission launch
The American space agency NASA has delayed its long-awaited return to the Moon by almost another year. The Artemis II mission, initially scheduled to launch in November 2024, has now been postponed until at least September 2025.
This information is stated in the agency's announcement. Scientists believe that additional time is required to analyze why the heat shield of the space capsule produced hazardous burning debris during its return to Earth in the Artemis I mission.
The Orion capsule, entering Earth's atmosphere on December 11, 2022, at a speed of over 38,000 km per hour, experienced temperatures of approximately 2760 degrees Celsius. At that moment, charred material unexpectedly peeled off Orion's heat shield during a deceleration maneuver.
NASA later admitted that they did not anticipate the heat shield burning and deteriorating to such an extent. This could pose risks given the high speed of the capsule.
Over the course of a year, the space agency analyzed the potentially dangerous debris. Based on the investigation results, NASA stated that if there were crew members on board Orion, they would not have been injured. However, there is a possibility that the astronauts might have been injured if the capsule had been oriented differently during the descent.
This is what NASA identified as the actual reason for the mission postponement. Scientists aim to fully comprehend why the incident occurred and how to prevent it from happening in future missions.
It is worth noting that one of the probable causes of the tragedy in January 2003 was an accidental piece of debris. During the launch of the Columbia shuttle back then, foam insulation detached from the fuel tank and damaged the shuttle's left wing. It is believed that this damage subsequently led to the re-entry disaster that claimed the lives of all seven crew members on board.
The Artemis mission aims to return humanity to the Moon and establish a permanent base there. However, this will unfold gradually.
Artemis II is the initial test of the vehicle designed to send four astronauts - Reed Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch, and Jeremy Hansen - on a journey around the Moon and back.
Artemis III is intended to mark the first lunar landing since Apollo (1972), with the condition that no other country surpasses NASA. The narrative of staying ahead of the curve is gaining significance, given that Artemis III has also faced delays, and the mission is now set to commence in September 2026, a year later than originally planned.
Nevertheless, NASA underscores that the primary focus is on the safety of the crew. According to NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Free, the mission will be launched "when we are ready."