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NASA says Artemis astronauts won't land on moon until 2025

Humanity's return to the lunar surface gets delayed.

Starship passing by the moon.

It's finally official. NASA isn't sticking to the timeline laid out during the Trump administration for its Artemis program, which initially aimed to return astronauts to the surface of the moon by 2024.

"It's clear to me the agency will need to make serious changes," NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a call with reporters Tuesday. 

Nelson said the Artemis II mission, which would carry astronauts around the moon without attempting a landing, is now targeted to launch no sooner than May 2024. Artemis III, the first crewed landing on the lunar surface, will likely happen no earlier than 2025. 

The space agency head noted that NASA "lost seven months in litigation," referring to complaints and a lawsuit filed by Blue Origin and Dynetics after SpaceX's Starship was selected to be the sole lunar lander for the Artemis program. Nelson also cited time lost to the COVID-19 pandemic and threw a little shade at the Trump administration, adding that the goal of putting boots on the moon again in 2024 "was not grounded in technical feasibility."  

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Although NASA voluntarily suspended work with SpaceX on Starship while Blue Origin's lawsuit was pending, Elon Musk's company has continued to develop the next generation spacecraft at its Texas facility. The lawsuit was dismissed last Thursday and NASA announced it was resuming work with SpaceX. 

It has been nearly a half century since humans last stepped on the moon in 1972. NASA has committed to sending the first female astronaut to the lunar surface through Artemis and to use the initiative to establish a permanent presence on the moon while also working towards the first human landing on Mars. 

Starship is currently awaiting environmental clearance and a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration for its first orbital flight, which is set to launch from Texas and make a splash down landing off the coast of Hawaii.