NASA delays Artemis II moon mission that includes Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen
January 15, 2024 By Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
NASA is delaying the Artemis II moon mission that includes Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen as it works to resolve technical issues with the spacecraft.
The U.S. space agency provided an update Tuesday on the timeline for the upcoming mission around the moon and said Artemis II will be pushed back to September 2025 from its intended launch this November.
A subsequent mission, Artemis III, which will land astronauts on the moon for the first time in more than 50 years, was also delayed — until at least September 2026. NASA has said it will include a woman and a person of colour on that mission to the moon’s south pole.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson described the Artemis program as “incredibly different” from previous NASA expeditions. “We remind everybody at every turn, safety is our top priority,” he told a teleconference, “and to give the Artemis teams more time to work through the challenges with first-time developments, operations and integration, we’re going to give more time on Artemis II and III.”
The Artemis II mission involves a lunar flyby, performing a figure-eight manoeuvre around the far side of the moon before returning to Earth.
It will be Hansen’s maiden space voyage alongside veteran NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover and Christina Koch, and will be the first crewed flight of the Orion capsule and the first mission to the moon since the last Apollo mission in 1972. It will also make Hansen the first non-American to travel beyond the lower Earth orbit.
Another Canadian astronaut, Jenni Gibbons, 35, of Calgary, was appointed in November as backup to Hansen, 47, of London, Ont., who was assigned last April.
“That Artemis II crew will be the first people to set human eyes on the far side of the moon,” said Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator. “I can imagine all the pictures and recordings that they’ll bring back to capture those moments, but also inform our understanding of the moon.”
News of the delay came barely an hour after a Pittsburgh company abandoned its own attempt to land its spacecraft on the moon because of a mission-ending fuel leak.
Launched on Monday as part of NASA’s commercial lunar program, Astrobotic Technology’s Peregrine lander was supposed to serve as a scout for the astronauts. A Houston company will give it a shot with its own lander next month.
In late November 2022, NASA launched Artemis I, an uncrewed NASA Orion spacecraft that orbited the moon before returning to Earth.
Officials outlined a number of issues with the Orion Tuesday, including a circuitry problem and a battery issue key to environmental and life support systems. They also said further testing and analysis is needed after the Artemis I unexpectedly lost layers of its heat shield.
NASA officials said the crew remains hard at work learning systems and monitoring and providing input on the spacecraft’s hardware. In December, Hansen told The Canadian Press the crew was training and learning a new craft with new systems.
“We probably have more question marks than you would imagine, and that’s because this is a test and development program. You sort of go as fast as you can,” Hansen said.
Free said, “As we prepare to send our friends and colleagues on this mission, we’re committed to launching as safely as possible and we will launch when we’re ready.”
The Artemis IV mission, which will be the first mission to assemble the Gateway lunar space station, is still planned for September 2028. The small lunar outpost that will orbit the moon will include a Canadian contribution, Canadarm 3.
With files from The Associated Press