Concerns Mount as NASA’s Artemis Moon Program Faces Delays and Skyrocketing Costs, Jeopardizing US Race against China

WASHINGTON (AP) — Concerns are mounting in Congress over delays and escalating costs in NASA’s Artemis moon program, raising worries that the United States may fall behind China in returning astronauts to the moon. Last week, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced that the agency’s first attempt to send astronauts around the moon in over 50 years would be delayed, with the first lunar landing also pushed back by nearly a year. These delays are due to technical issues with the heat shield of its Orion spacecraft and delays in developing the lunar ferry spacecraft and spacesuits.

In addition, a report released by NASA’s inspector general states that the total cost of the Artemis program from 2012 to 2025 could reach $93 billion. Lawmakers expressed concerns about astronaut safety and the need for NASA to address long-standing concerns such as unsustainable costs and unreliable project schedules.

The race with China to return to the moon is becoming increasingly urgent. China has been making significant strides in space exploration, soft-landing a spacecraft on the lunar surface in 2013 and landing on the moon’s far side in 2019. China is planning to bring samples back from the far side this year and aims to establish a base near the lunar south pole. The Biden administration embraced the Artemis program to keep pace with China’s ambitions in space.

Despite the delays, Artemis continues to enjoy bipartisan support in Congress. Lawmakers want to see the first woman and first person of color walk on the moon as promised by NASA. However, the pressure is on to ensure the program’s success. China’s presence in space looms large as the United States strives to regain its leadership in lunar exploration.

Former NASA administrator Mike Griffin warned that the United States has not demonstrated the necessary sense of urgency to stay ahead of China. He emphasized the importance of being on the moon for global power politics. NASA officials acknowledged the technical issues they need to address before launching the Artemis II mission, highlighting safety as their top priority.

While China’s aggressive plans to land astronauts on the moon pose a challenge, Nelson expressed confidence that the United States will maintain its lead. He believes that China’s desire to make a significant impact and gain a public relations advantage could be a driving factor. Nevertheless, the United States remains committed to sending its astronauts back to the moon.

In conclusion, delays and rising costs in NASA’s Artemis moon program have raised concerns in Congress about the United States falling behind China in returning astronauts to the moon. Despite these challenges, the Artemis program continues to enjoy support from lawmakers, who see it as an opportunity to showcase diversity and achieve historic milestones. The race with China in space exploration is intensifying, urging NASA to address technical issues and prioritize safety as it works towards its goal of returning to the moon.