Experts warn that NASA could not reach its 2020 moon deadline of 2025, raising concerns about China’s potential challenge to the US on the moon surface in the next decade.

The announcement came just hours after US space agency announced that plans to send first female and first color astronauts to Earth’s only natural satellite were delayed by one year.

The schedule was changed after seven months of litigation regarding the Blue Origin suit, unexpected costs increases and the pandemic coronavirus. 

But Dr Erin Macdonald, a Scottish-American astrophysicist and aerospace engineer, agreed with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson that a lack of finances and an unrealistic target set by Donald Trump’s government in 2019 was also to blame.

She stated that she was not satisfied with the amount of budget the administration had given her to accomplish this project under its previous administration. 

To make matters worse, Dr Macdonald even thinks the new deadline of 2025 is ‘pushing it’.  

They said they would wait until the next day. She said that this was for Artemis III. They still have Artemis I to finish and Artemis II left to do in order to step on the moon.

“Last month they had already delayed Artemis I, from November to February. So all of these effects tend to be domino.

When the US space agency will likely send its next astronauts to the moon? Dr Macdonald answered, “I think at least 2030. Maybe closer to 2025.” 

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NASA might not even hit its new 2025 moon deadline, experts say, amid fears China could now beat the US to the lunar surface this decade. Pictured is an artist's impression of the SpaceX Starship human lander that will be used to carry NASA astronauts to the moon again

Experts fear that NASA may not meet its 2025 deadline for reaching the moon, as China might now surpass the US in this decade’s race to reach the lunar surface. This is an artist’s rendering of the SpaceX Starship human-lander, which will again be used by NASA astronauts.

Dr Erin Macdonald, an astrophysicist and aerospace engineer, thinks the new deadline of 2025 may even be 'pushing it' and believes it could be closer to 2030 instead

Astrophysicist Erin Macdonald believes that the 2025 deadline may be too soon and suggests it might be more like 2030.


NASA decided to postpone its 2024 goal of sending humans to the moon. There are many reasons.

They include:

Blue Origin lawsuit

Much of the delay to NASA’s moon plans has been blamed on Blue Origin, founded by Jeff Bezos, which sued the US space agency in August.

It cited that NASA had originally intended to award multiple contracts for the lunar lander, but instead made Elon Musk’s SpaceX the sole provider in a $2.9 billion deal. 

On November 4, a federal judge ruled against Blue Origin — putting an end to the litigation.

NASA stated that SpaceX had prevented it from working with them for seven consecutive months.

The Covid pandemic

NASA’s working structure and targets have been affected, as has many companies and industries.

Numerous employees were forced to work at home due to various lockdowns. The supply chain was also disrupted by the shut downs.

Increased costs

NASA administrator Bill Nelson explained that delays were partly caused by unexpected costs increases in an interview yesterday.

The reason was partly because of an Orion development cost update of $9.3 Billion, which ran from fiscal year 12 to the first crewed flight test in May 2024.

The period from 2012 to 2024 is included, an increase of the $6.7 million estimate.

Budget insufficient

Bill Nelson, NASA administrator, also spoke out against the US’s inability to provide funding for its latest attempt at landing on the moon.

He added: “Going forward Congress has made it very clear that there will be competition for all 10 + moon landings in future. 

“There will need to be a substantial increase in funding for competition, and that will be starting with 2023’s budget.”

It’s impossible to set a date 

Nelson attempted to reach the original target date of 2024, which was set in two years by President Donald Trump’s administration.

He stated that it wasn’t grounded in technical feasibility.

NASA had originally planned to return humans to the lunar surface by 2024 — 52 years after the last crewed landing saw Eugene Cernan step foot on the moon in 1972.

Yesterday, Nelson stated that NASA had set a May 2024 target for crewed testing of Origin and Space Launch System (SLS), on Artemis II. This would push the date for the first lunar landing forward to next year.

Trump’s goal of 2024 humans landing was attacked by him. He said it wasn’t feasible technically and then added that Congress had made clear that competition must exist for those 10+ moon landings. 

“There will need to be a substantial increase in funding for competition, and that is going be starting with 2023’s budget.”

NASA shared Dr Macdonald’s concern that China could overtake the US in the race to return to the Moon.

She explained that while there are many countries competing to make it to the moon, China is only one. However, everyone is working hard to achieve their goals. 

Nelson said that the Chinese space program could land Chinese taikonauts sooner than previously thought.

He also pledged to NASA that it would fight for the right to be on top of other countries in getting back onto the moon.

When Dr Macdonald was asked if it really matters who gets there first considering that the Americans have already achieved history by winning the race for space, when Neil Armstrong was the first person to land on the Moon in 1969, Dr Macdonald replied: “I don’t believe it matters.

“The biggest thing about space is that it tends to unite all of us.

“A lot people get really excited about spacetravel and that is something that all of us as human beings share. The majesty to be able to witness people setting foot on other universes means a lot.

She said, “The biggest thing everyone wants to see isn’t just a person walking on the moon. But someone else than a white male.”

“I feel that it would resonate with many people.

In September, reports surfaced that China could land its first astronauts on the moon as early as 2030, under plans that would see it adapt its existing Long March 5 rocket.

Although the country planned to send people to the moon surface in the future, it was not clear when.

The Chinese government was believed to have increased its efforts to allow humans to step on the lunar surface after the Artemis timeline’s expected slip. 

Long Lehao of China Academy of Engineering is a Chinese Academy of Engineering expert who confirmed plans to launch 2 rockets in 2030. 

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson blamed increased costs and the Covid pandemic for delays

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson blamed increased costs and the Covid pandemic for delays

Nelson said NASA was now targeting May 2024 for the crewed test flight of Origin and the Space Launch System (pictured) on Artemis II, thus pushing the lunar landing to 2025 instead

Nelson stated that NASA now targets May 2024 to conduct the crewed test flights of Origin and Space Launch System (pictured on Artemis II), pushing the moon landing back to 2025.

Reports have previously suggested that a slip in the Artemis timeline may have prompted the Chinese government to speed up its own plans to have humans walk on the lunar surface. The country's new large carrier rocket Long March-5B is pictured blasting off in May last year

Previous reports suggested that the Chinese government may have been influenced by a delay in Artemis’ timeline to allow them to accelerate their plans for humans walking on the moon. Pictured above, Long March-5B, the country’s large-sized carrier rocket Long March-5B was seen blasting off last May.

China's national flag is seen unfurled from the Chang'e-5 spacecraft on the moon in 2020

China’s national flag seen unfolded from Chang’e-5’s spacecraft orbiting the moon in 2020 


The Shenzhou-12 spacecraft is launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on June 17, 2021 in Jiuquan, Gansu Province of China, carried on the Long March-2F rocket, to Chinese Tiangong space station

Launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan Province of China, the Shenzhou-12 satellitecraft will be launched on June 17th, 2021. It is carried aboard the Long March-2F rocket and to Chinese Tiangong orbit station.

July 19, 1964China made its official first step in space by launching an experimental biological rocket that carried white mice and was later recovered.

April 24, 1970 Dong Fang Hong 1 was the first Chinese satellite. It was launched at the Jiuquan Launch Centre in Gansu’s northwestern province. China became the fifth country after the United States and France to launch satellites in orbit.

Nov. 26, 1975: China launches its first satellite that can be recovered.

Nov. 20, 1999:China’s first unmanned spacecraft launched, the Shenzhou-1.

Oct. 15, 2003China was the third nation after Russia and the United States to launch a human being into space using its own rocket. Yang Liwei was the astronaut who spent approximately 21 hours in space on board the Shenzhou-5 rocket.

12 October 2005Two Chinese men flew five days on the Shenzhou-6 spacecraft.

Nov. 5, 2007China’s first lunar orbiter Chang’e-1 entered orbit around the moon 12 days after its takeoff.

25 Sept 2008China’s third and final manned spacecraft was Shenzhou-7. It was launched into orbit by China. A spacewalker climbed aboard the spacecraft to complete the nation’s first ever space walk.

October 1, 2010.China’s second moon exploration probe was launched in a remote area of Sichuan, southwest China.

29 Sept. 2011Tiangong-1 (or ‘Heavenly palace 1’), China’s first orbiting space laboratory, launched in order to conduct docking and orbiting tests.

Nov. 3, 2011China completed its first docking operation between two unmanned spacecraft. This was a critical test in order to secure manned long-term presence in space.

December 14, 2013China joined the United States, the Soviet Union and China in landing an unmanned spacecraft onto the Moon in the first soft-landing since 1976.

October 15, 2016China has launched Tiangong-2, its second space lab, as part of an overall plan to put a permanent manned orbit station into service by 2022.

February 3, 2019: In December the Chang’e-4 lunar probe was launched. It touched down on its far side. Previous spacecraft had flown by the far side, but have never touched down on it.

June 23, 2020China’s final Beidou satellite was placed in orbit, concluding a long-running navigation network and giving China the opportunity to take on the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS).

July 23, 2020China launches an unmanned Mars probe in the first ever independent mission to another world.

Nov. 24, 2020China’s Chang’e-5 uncrewed lunar mission was launched. Its purpose is to collect moon material that will help scientists understand the origins of the moon.

January 1, 2020China has landed Chang’e-5 on the Moon’s Surface.

April 29, 2021China has launched Tianhe as the first and biggest of its three space stations.

April 15, 2021China is now the second country to successfully land a robotic vehicle on Mars, after the United States.

June 17, 2021China launches the Shenzhou-12 crewed spacecraft for docking with Tianhe.

These would be modified versions of Long March 5, the Chinese space powerhouse, which was launched in order to launch a lunar lander that orbits the moon and one to dispatch a crew to rendezvous with the lander to descend to the surface.

Much of the delay to NASA’s moon plans has been blamed on Blue Origin, founded by Jeff Bezos, which sued the US space agency in August.

It cited that NASA had originally intended to award multiple contracts for the lunar lander, but instead made Elon Musk’s SpaceX the sole provider in a $2.9 billion deal. 

On November 4, a federal judge ruled against Blue Origin — putting an end to the litigation.

Nelson claimed that NASA could not collaborate with SpaceX over seven months due to the legal proceeding. 

The Artemis I mission will see the Orion spacecraft (pictured), the SLS and the ground systems at Kennedy combine to launch the Orion 280,000 miles past Earth around the moon over the course of a three-week mission

Artemis I (pictured) will launch Orion’s spacecraft, the SLS, and Kennedy ground systems. The mission will take Orion around 280,000 miles beyond Earth to the moon in three weeks.


Longitude:At 212 feet

Diameter26.6 feet

Lose weight 188,000 pounds

Material Aluminium 2219 

The engines: 4xRS-24

Maximum Speed Mach 23 

Capacity537 000 gallons total of liquid hydrogen; 196,000 Gallons of liquid oxygen

‘Since the court ruling last week we have resumed work with SpaceX through a series of meetings that continue this week,’ Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator of Exploration Systems Development, said during the briefing. 

This schedule change is due to an Orion development cost update of $9.3 Billion, which covers fiscal year 12, through the first crewed flight testing and not later than May 2024. 

This encompasses the period between 2012 and 2024, up from the previous estimate of $6.7 billion.

The President Joe Biden named Nelson as the head of the space agency. 

Biden has agreed to keep Artemis alive, which was established under the former President Donald Trump. It was designed to get astronauts onto the moon in 2024. 

Nelson revealed that there will be an uncrewed landing before human beings set foot on the moon’s surface during the briefing.

Nelson stated that NASA was making progress and that Orion’s crew capsule had been placed on top of the Space Launch System rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

On October 22, the last Artemis update stated that NASA’s uncrewed Artemis I mission wouldn’t launch before February 2022. However, the delay kept NASA on schedule for the 2024 lunar landing.

Artemis I will be the mission that sees the Orion spacecraft and SLS combined with Kennedy’s ground systems launch Orion around 280,000 miles above Earth. It is expected to last for three weeks.

Lockheed Martin is the primary contractor for this spacecraft. NASA stated previously that they will keep it in orbit ‘longer than any spacecraft has ever done, without docking with a space station, and return home quicker and hotter than before.

NASA successfully assembled the $18.6B SLS rocket in June. The project was announced by NASA back in 2011.

However, during the Tuesday’s briefing, NASA said it is still targeting the February 2022 deadline — and will keep the public up-to-date on developments.

Artemis II will send four astronauts aboard the Orion capsule crewed into a Lunar Flyby, for maximum 21 days.

The missions were designed to test the technologies and capabilities of Orion, SLS, Artemis and other mission leaders before NASA sends humans back on board the moon.

NASA’s Artemis mission will see the landing of NASA’s first man and woman on the Moon in 2024.

Artemis was Apollo’s twin sister and the goddess of the moon, according to Greek mythology. 

NASA has chosen her to personify its path back to the moon, which will see astronauts return to the lunar surface by 2024 –  including the first woman and the next man.

Artemis 1 was formerly known as Exploration Mission-1. It is one of several increasingly complicated missions that will permit human exploration to Mars and the moon. 

Artemis 1 will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s deep space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.  

Artemis 1 will not be crewed and provide the foundation for deep space exploration and human civilization to the moon. 

The spacecraft will fly further than any human-made spacecraft ever.

In three weeks, it will cover 280,000 km (450,600km) distance from Earth. This is thousands of miles more than what the moon can offer. 

Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars. This graphic explains the various stages of the mission

Artemis 1 (formerly Exploration Mission-1) is the first of a series that will allow humans to explore the moon and Mars. The mission’s stages are explained in this graphic

Orion will remain in space for longer than any other ship designed to carry astronauts, and it will return to Earth faster than any spacecraft. 

NASA has launched the first deep space exploration mission. It will be the beginning of the next step towards human exploration in deep space. NASA astronauts are building and testing systems for the lunar surface and exploring other locations farther than Earth. 

The will take crew on a different trajectory and test Orion’s critical systems with humans aboard. 

Orion, SLS, and Kennedy’s ground systems will all be capable of meeting the most difficult crew or cargo missions in deep space.

NASA hopes to have a permanent human presence on the Moon by 2028, as part of its Artemis mission.

This colony is expected to make new discoveries and demonstrate technological advances, as well as lay the groundwork for private companies that will build an economy on the moon.