Artemis: The Good, the Bad and the Well, Yeah

Artist concept of the SpaceX Starship on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and top officials provided an update on the Artemis program on Tuesday, delivering the not unexpected news that the space agency will not meet its deadline of landing a man and the first woman of color at the south pole of the moon in 2024. Instead, the landing will be delayed until at least 2025.

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NASA, National Geographic Partner to Show Inside Artemis Moon Mission

Orion and European Service Module orbiting the Moon. (Credit: NASA/ESA/ATG Medialab)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected National Geographic to help tell the story of Artemis II, the first Artemis flight that will carry astronauts around the Moon and back to Earth aboard the agency’s Orion spacecraft.

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Next Generation of Orion Spacecraft in Production for Future Artemis Missions

Now complete, the crew module pressure vessel for Artemis III will be shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the team will start integrating the spacecraft’s systems and subsystems. Photo taken August 27, 2021. (Credits: NASA/Eric Bordelon)

NEW ORLEANS (NASA PR) — Over the next decade, NASA’s Orion spacecraft will carry astronauts during Artemis missions to the Moon to help prepare for human missions to Mars. Work on the spacecraft for Artemis I is nearly complete, Artemis II is well underway, and NASA is making progress on vehicles for the missions beyond.

The agency recently completed welding on the Artemis III Orion pressure vessel, the underlying frame of the air-tight capsule for astronauts called the crew module. This structure is the first major piece of hardware in Orion’s production phase with lead contractor Lockheed Martin.

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First Piece of Artemis II Flight Hardware Arrives in Florida

Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla. (NASA PR) — The Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage for the second flight of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket arrived in Florida on July 28 for the final phase of production. The stage and its single RL10 engine provide the in-space propulsion needed to send NASA’s Orion spacecraft and its crew on a precise trajectory to the Moon for Artemis II, the first crewed mission of NASA’s Artemis lunar missions. It is the first piece of the rocket for the Artemis II flight to arrive in Florida. Boeing and United Launch Alliance, the contractor team for the stage, shipped the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage from ULA’s facilities in Decatur, Alabama, to its Delta IV Operation Center at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The stage will undergo final processing and checkout before it is transported to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for launch preparations.

With Artemis, NASA will land the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface and establish long-term exploration at the Moon in preparation for human missions to Mars. SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft, along with the commercial human landing system and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, are NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.

NASA Statement on GAO Ruling Regarding Human Landing System Protest

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The following is the NASA statement in response to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) decision released Friday on the human landing system protest:

“NASA was notified Friday, July 30, that the U.S. Government Accountability Office has denied the protests filed by Blue Origin Federation and Dynetics and has upheld the agency’s source selection of SpaceX to continue the development of its human landing system. The decision enables NASA to award the contract that will ultimately result in the first crewed demonstration landing on the surface of the Moon under NASA’s Artemis plan. Importantly, the GAO’s decision will allow NASA and SpaceX to establish a timeline for the first crewed landing on the Moon in more than 50 years.

“NASA recognizes that sending American astronauts back to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo program and establishing a long-term presence on the Moon is a priority for the Biden Administration and is imperative for maintaining American leadership in space. In the face of challenges during the last year, NASA and its partners have made significant achievements to advance Artemis, including a successful hot fire test for the Space Launch System rocket. An uncrewed flight of Artemis I is on track for this year and a crewed Artemis II mission is planned for 2023. 

“NASA is moving forward with urgency, but astronaut safety is the priority and the agency will not sacrifice the safety of the crew in the steadfast pursuit of the goal to establish a long-term presence on the Moon.

“As soon as possible, NASA will provide an update on the way ahead for Artemis, the human landing system, and humanity’s return to the Moon. We will continue to work with the Biden Administration and Congress to ensure funding for a robust and sustainable approach for the nation’s return to the Moon in a collaborative effort with U.S. commercial partners.” 

Lockheed Martin Opens Advanced Manufacturing Facility to Expand Orion Spacecraft Production

STAR Center (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

TITUSVILLE, Fla. (Lockheed Martin PR) — Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] opened its Spacecraft Test, Assembly and Resource (STAR) Center today. The STAR Center features business and digital transformation innovations that will expand manufacturing, assembly and testing capacity for NASA’s Orion spacecraft program and ultimately, future space exploration.

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NASA Awards Laser Air Monitoring System and Spacecraft Avionics Contracts for Orion

An Orion spacecraft approaches the lunar Gateway. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded Dynetics Inc. of Huntsville, Alabama, a contract to produce a Laser Air Monitoring System (LAMS) for the agency’s Orion spacecraft beginning with the Artemis III mission.

NASA has also selected Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts, to provide development and operations support for the avionics software suite that will guide the agency’s next generation of human rated spacecraft on missions beyond low-Earth orbit.

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Canada Moves Forward with Plans to Explore the Moon

This photograph of a nearly full Moon was taken from the Apollo 8 spacecraft at a point above 70 degrees east longitude. Mare Crisium, the circular, dark-colored area near the center, is near the eastern edge of the Moon as viewed from Earth. (Credits: NASA)

Government of Canada’s Space Strategy supports the future of space exploration, space science and technology and jobs.

LONGUEUIL, Que., May 26, 2021 – As we plan for humanity’s return to the Moon, there is great potential for Canadian entrepreneurs and scientists to advance lunar science and technology. Canadians will play an important role in the highly competitive and innovative global supply chain of the expanding new space economy.

That is why, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry today announced investments of $3 million in technology initiatives for lunar exploration through the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

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Surprise! NASA Artemis Lunar Program Schedule Likely to Slip Again, 2024 Landing Unlikely

An astronaut descends the ladder to explore the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The latest in a series of updates from NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) says that despite making significant progress on the $86 billion Artemis program, the space agency’s schedule for returning astronauts to the moon in four years is likely to slip. [Full report]

“Nonetheless, the Agency faces significant challenges that we believe will make its current plan to launch Artemis I in 2021 and ultimately land astronauts on the Moon by the end of 2024 highly unlikely,” the update said.

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NASA to Host Virtual Viewing of Orion Spacecraft Drop Test

Engineers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia begin a new series of four water impact drop tests with a test version of the capsule for NASA’s Orion spacecraft to better understand what Orion and its crew may experience when landing in the Pacific Ocean after Artemis missions to the Moon. (Credits: NASA)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — Engineers will drop a 14,000-pound test version of the Orion spacecraft into the Hydro Impact Basin at NASA’s Langley Research Center’s Landing and Impact Research Facility in Hampton, Virginia, at 1:45 p.m. EDT Tuesday, April 6.

The test will air live on NASA Television, the NASA app and the agency’s website, and will livestream on multiple agency social media platforms, including the Facebook channels for Orion and Langley.

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Three More Service Modules for Artemis to be Built in Europe

Artist’s impression of Orion over Earth. (Credit: NASA/ESA/ATG Medialab)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA signed a further contract with Airbus for the construction of three more European Service Modules for Orion, NASA’s spacecraft that will fly astronauts to the Moon and lunar Gateway as part of the Artemis programme.

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GAO: NASA Needs to Improve Artemis Management as New Schedule Delays Likely

Gateway with Orion over the Moon (Credit: ESA/NASA/ATG Medialab)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA needs to strengthen its management oversight of the lunar landing program to minimize delays and cost overruns as the space agency moves beyond the Artemis I flight test scheduled for November 2021, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

GAO’s program review also found that schedule for the maiden flight of the Space Launch System and second Orion spacecraft does not account for delays resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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Canada’s Top Space Highlights of 2020

Credit: Canadian Space Agency

LONGUEUIL, Que. (CSA PR) — It’s an understatement to say that 2020 was an exceptional year. As the year draws to a close, here’s a look at some of the most compelling, inspirational and incredible moments for Canada in space. Happy New Year!

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NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic to Complete Successful 2020

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.

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