For six months, NASA has been chasing big plans to land humans near the south pole of the moon in 2024.
That deadline came from Vice President Mike Pence in March and represented a significant increase in speed from the human moon landing’s previous timeline, targeting 2028. The project has since been dubbed the Artemis program, a nod to the fact that NASA plans to include a female astronaut in the moon landing for the first time. But despite the pressured schedule, NASA wasn’t specific about when in 2024 it hopes to accomplish the feat.
On Thursday (Sept. 12), the agency offered its first hint when Greg Chavers, acting deputy program manager for human landing system at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, spoke during a panel held in Huntsville, Alabama.
“We all know 2024 is the big date; we don’t have a specific day that’s codified yet,” Chavers said. “We’re targeting sometime in the last half of 2024. That gives us a little more time.”
NASA has plenty of projects it needs to accomplish in that time, however. The massive Space Launch System rocket planned for use in the mission is not ready to fly; the Orion capsule has never flown a crewed mission; the agency will need new space suits designed for the lunar surface; and the plan that allows astronauts to land near the south pole requires the construction and maintenance of a Gateway waystation in orbit of the moon.
To accommodate the shortened schedule, Chavers and his colleagues have tweaked some of the requirements and plans for projects they are running in association with the push to return to the moon.
“We’re running really fast,” Chavers said. “It’s uncomfortable for many of us, but we’re excited about it.”