(CNN) — NASA officials are expected to announce on Tuesday a “month-long delay” to the first crewed mission of the agency’s flagship Artemis program, according to a current and former NASA official.
The delay affects NASA’s Artemis II mission, which aims to send four astronauts on a journey to the Moon and is scheduled to take off in November this year.
However, the mission will not take place again until 2025, the sources said, confirming months of speculation that a postponement was imminent.
In a November report, NASA’s inspector general hinted at possible mission delays, citing three major problems the space agency must overcome before it can safely land humans on the Moon.
First, the ground structure used to build, transport and launch the Space Launch System’s massive rocket, called Mobile Launcher 1, “sustained more damage than expected.”
The November report said repairs to the structure were ongoing.
Second, the heat shield of the Orion spacecraft, which was to be home to the astronauts on Artemis 2, was “unexpectedly destroyed” during Artemis 1 when it was exposed to temperatures during reentry. approximately twice as high as the surface of the Sun. Earth’s atmosphere.
Finally, the inspector general laid out what NASA officials consider the Artemis II mission’s “major critical path”: preparing Orion for its first crew and integrating it with the European Service Module, which provides power and propulsion. The “critical path” in project planning refers to the aspect of the mission that is expected to take the most time.
The Artemis II mission was intended to build on the success of the Artemis I mission, an uncrewed test flight that took NASA’s Orion capsule on a 1.4 million-mile journey to the Moon. The trip ended in December 2022.
The Artemis II mission will be the first time humans have orbited the Moon since the end of the Apollo program. The crew, announced in April, includes NASA officials Reed Wiseman, Victor Glover and Christina Koch, and astronaut Jeremy Hansen of the Canadian Space Agency.
The journey will last about 10 days and will take the crew beyond the moon, potentially farther than any human has ever traveled, although the exact distance has yet to be determined.
Artemis II is expected to pave the way for the Artemis III mission later this decade, which NASA has promised will mark the first time a woman and a person of color will walk on the lunar surface. It will also be the first human landing on the Moon since the end of the Apollo program in 1972.
NASA has set Artemis III’s launch date for 2025, although the space agency’s inspector general said delays will likely push the mission to 2026 or later.