North Carolina-raised astronaut Christina Koch will have to wait even longer to become the first woman to fly to the moon, after NASA announced Tuesday it would push the expected launch date for the Artemis II mission to September 2025.
The mission, which is the second in the Artemis program that is eventually intended to land the first-ever woman and person of color on the moon, was previously set for later this year.
The Artemis III mission, in which that historic landing is expected to take place, was delayed to September 2026, while Artemis IV, intended to be the first mission to the lunar space station, remains on track for launch in 2028.
Koch was announced as a mission specialist for Artemis II last April, joining NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman and Victor Glover of NASA and Jeremy Hansen of the Canadian Space Agency on the mission that will test the Orion spacecraft’s systems to confirm they can perform and operate “as designed with people aboard in the actual environment of deep space,” NASA’s description of the mission states.
The delays are intended to ensure the missions can be completed safely and “to allow teams to work through challenges associated with first-time developments, operations, and integration,” a NASA news release said Tuesday.
“We are returning to the Moon in a way we never have before, and the safety of our astronauts is NASA’s top priority as we prepare for future Artemis missions,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in the release. “We’ve learned a lot since Artemis I, and the success of these early missions relies on our commercial and international partnerships to further our reach and understanding of humanity’s place in our solar system. Artemis represents what we can accomplish as a nation — and as a global coalition. When we set our sights on what is hard, together, we can achieve what is great.”
For the Artemis II mission, specifically, NASA is troubleshooting issues related to a battery, air ventilation and temperature control, the release said.
“We are letting the hardware talk to us so that crew safety drives our decision-making. We will use the Artemis II flight test, and each flight that follows, to reduce risk for future Moon missions,” NASA associate administrator Catherine Koerner said. “We are resolving challenges associated with first-time capabilities and operations, and we are closer than ever to establishing sustained exploration of Earth’s nearest neighbor under Artemis.”
Koch, a three-time graduate of NC State University, grew up in Jacksonville, in Eastern North Carolina. She also attended the North Carolina School of Science and Math, the residential, public high school that is part of the UNC System.
She has made history a handful of times as an astronaut, including by breaking the world record for the longest spaceflight by a woman and being part of the first all-female spacewalk, installing a solar power system for the International Space Station with fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir.
Koch returned to NC State in October, joining Chancellor Randy Woodson for his annual fall address and reflecting on her time at the university and as an astronaut.
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