NASA confirms 2024 moon landing hopes 'not technically feasible' after lawsuit delays

A view of the Earth from Moon
The Artemis missions will result in a long-term human base on the lunar surface. Photo credit: Getty Images

It's seemed inevitable for months and now NASA has confirmed its planned return to the moon in 2024 has been delayed to "no earlier than 2025".

COVID-19, delays in the development of its new spacesuits and the lawsuit with Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin over the lunar lander contract have all played a part.

"Returning to the moon as quickly and safely as possible is an agency priority," NASA administrator Bill Nelson said.

"However, with the recent lawsuit and other factors, the first human landing under Artemis is likely no earlier than 2025.

"The Trump Administration's landing goal of 2024 [is not] technically feasible."

NASA plans to use the Artemis missions, as they are known, to land the first woman and person of colour on the Moon, while establishing a long-term presence on the lunar surface.

The goal is to then use that "to take the next giant leap", sending astronauts to Mars.

The last man to walk on the moon, Gene Cernan, did so in 1972 as part of the Apollo 17 mission.

While NASA now admits 2024 isn't possible, the timeline has been in doubt for some time now, with the agency's Office of Inspector General (OIG) signalling it was "all but impossible" in a report in August.

One of the biggest reasons stated was the development of the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) spacesuits.

"NASA's current schedule is to produce the first two flight-ready xEMUs by November 2024, but the agency faces significant challenges in meeting this goal," the report stated.

"A flight-ready suit remains years away from completion. NASA officials expect to spend over US$1 billion on design, testing, qualification, and development efforts before two flight-ready suits are available for use."

Twenty-seven different companies are supplying components for the spacesuits and budget reductions, technical problems and supply chain issues resulted in a 20-month delay.

With more delays anticipated due to the pandemic and technical issues identified during testing, "a lunar landing in late 2024 is not feasible", the report concluded.


That was made even more difficult by the legal battle over the lunar lander contract, which halted all development work until the lawsuit was resolved. Last week a federal US judge rejected a lawsuit by Blue Origin over NASA's decision to award the US$2.9 billion contract to rival billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX.

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) had previously signed off on NASA's choice to pick a single lunar lander provider, rejecting Blue Origin's protest over the agency's decision to change its mind over having multiple deals.

The lawsuit came after Bezos had offered NASA a US$2 billion discount to give the contract to Blue Origin instead, saying the initial decision to award the sole contract to SpaceX was "fundamentally unfair".

The good news is that work on the lunar lander module will start again shortly. Nelson spoke with SpaceX's Gwynne Shotwell at the end of last week, the first contact they've been able to have since the lawsuit was launched, he said.

"We both underscored the importance of returning to the moon as quickly and safely as possible, and the decision by the court means progress for the Artemis program," he told

"But our teams still need more time to work through the specifics before we can give a look at the readiness timeframe."

Earlier this year NASA opened applications for four crew members for a year-long mission to live on Mars - but without leaving Earth's surface.

The selected individuals will live in a 3D-printed environment and simulate what life will be like on the Red Planet should humans ever get there.