NASA Delays Artemis 2, Artemis 3 Moon Missions for Safety Reasons

Artemis 2 has been pushed from later this year to no earlier than September 2025, and the Artemis 3 moon landing will not occur before September 2026

Four astronauts stand smiling in blue suits
From left to right: Artemis 2 astronauts Christina Hammock Koch, Victor Glover, Jeremy Hansen and Reid Wiseman. James Blair / NASA / JSC

For safety reasons, NASA is delaying the launches of its crewed Artemis 2 and Artemis 3 moon missions, the space agency announced on Tuesday.

Artemis 2, which will carry four astronauts on a ten-day flight around the moon, will now take place no earlier than September 2025. It had originally been slated for later this year. As a result, Artemis 3, which will land astronauts on the moon’s surface, has been pushed back from a planned 2025 launch to no earlier than September 2026.

NASA has been conducting safety checks on the equipment and says it needs more time to resolve some problems.

“Teams are troubleshooting a battery issue and addressing challenges with a circuitry component responsible for air ventilation and temperature control,” NASA says in a statement.

The agency is also looking into concerns revealed during the uncrewed Artemis 1 flight, which took place in late 2022. For example, engineers are still investigating why the Orion crew capsule lost charred material from its heat shield during reentry.

But the main reason for the delay was issues with the valves in Orion’s life support system, Amit Kshatriya, a NASA deputy associate administrator, tells the New York Times’ Kenneth Chang.

“The safety of our astronauts is NASA’s top priority as we prepare for future Artemis missions,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson says in the agency’s statement.

The delays also give NASA’s commercial partners more time to complete their contributions to the mission. During Artemis 3, astronauts will travel from lunar orbit to the moon’s surface on SpaceX’s Starship Human Landing System, which will rely on launches of the company’s powerful Starship rocket. SpaceX conducted two test launches of Starship in 2023, both of which ended with the rocket exploding.

Before journeying to the moon, Starship will need to refuel while orbiting Earth, requiring an estimated ten fuel transfers, writes Marcia Dunn of the Associated Press (AP). That part of the mission, which SpaceX plans to accomplish by launching an orbiting fuel station, has not been tested yet, per the publication.

“We must be realistic… We’re looking at our Starship progress and need for propellant transfer, the need for numerous landings,” NASA associate administrator Jim Free told reporters Tuesday, according to CNN’s Jackie Wattles. Axiom Space will also get more time to finish designing the space suits the astronauts will wear, per NASA.

Planning for the Artemis missions started in 2017, when then-President Donald Trump told NASA to send people back to the moon, according to the New York Times. Artemis 1, which successfully placed an uncrewed Orion spacecraft in lunar orbit, launched on November 16, 2022, and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean a month later, on December 11.

In April of last year, NASA announced the crew for Artemis 2. NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Christina Hammock Koch and Reid Wiseman, as well as Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen, will travel to lunar orbit—farther than any human has been from Earth since 1972. Glover will be the first person of color on a moon mission, while Koch will be the first woman, according to NASA.

If all goes well, Artemis 3 will land humans on the moon. From lunar orbit, two astronauts will journey to the surface, where they’ll spend a week conducting scientific research. Delays were already expected for that mission: The U.S. Government Accountability Office said late last year that “the lunar landing mission is unlikely to occur in 2025 as planned.”

NASA is also “reviewing the schedule” for launching the first components of a planned lunar space station called Gateway, according to the agency’s statement. The launch had previously been set for October 2025.

Astronauts are expected to visit the space station, as well as return to the moon’s surface, as part of the Artemis 4 mission, which is still on track for a 2028 launch, the agency says.

The recently announced delays are not the first setbacks the Artemis program has faced. Delays have added to the costs of the program, which government audits project to be at $93 billion through 2025, according to the AP.

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.