NASA Postpones Moon Landing Until 2026

The moon program is pushing back the next human-accompanied lunar landing to 2026 and a flyby there and back to next year, NASA officials in Cape Canaveral announced on Tuesday.

The nation’s space administration had a trip around the moon for four astronauts scheduled for later this year but now has it on the calendar for Sept. 2025. The space program also postponed Artemis, the first moon landing with a human crew in over 50 years, until 2026.

“Safety is our top priority,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, explaining that the later dates “give Artemis teams more time to work through the challenges,” of the mission. Artemis is a name from Greek mythology — the twin sister of Apollo — who represented the moon as a huntress and midwife.

NASA made the announcement an hour after Astrobotic Technologies, a Pittsburgh company working as part of NASA’s commercial moon program, failed to land a drone spacecraft — the Peregrine Lander — on the moon because of a fuel leak en route to its destination. The lander was supposed to scout ahead for the astronaut moon missions.

A Houston-based company will try next with another private landing craft designed for the moon in February. NASA is collaborating extensively with the private sector to support the astronaut moon missions.

The Artemis mission will depend on SpaceX’s mega-rocket Starship to land moonwalkers on the lunar surface and then lift them up into Earth orbit. However, the private rocket company has only tested the 400-foot Starship rocket twice, with both tests ending in explosions over the Gulf of Mexico. SpaceX has February slated for a third test.

SpaceX will have more work cut out for it if it finds a safe way to Earth orbit with the mega-rocket. The next step is getting enough engine fuel into orbit to last the distance to the moon. Mission organizers expect it to require 10 refueling flights, according to SpaceX Vice President of Customer Operations and Integration, Jessica Jensen.

“I really do not have a concern that China’s gonna land before us,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said Tuesday. “I think that China has a very aggressive plan. I think they would like to land before us … but the fact is that I don’t think they will.”