Enlarge / This image taken by NASA’s Orion spacecraft shows its view just before the vehicle flew behind the Moon in 2022. (credit: NASA)

Although NASA is unlikely to speak about it publicly any time soon, the space agency is privately considering modifications to its Artemis plan to land astronauts on the surface of the Moon later this decade.

Multiple sources have confirmed that NASA is studying alternatives to the planned Artemis III landing of two astronauts on the Moon, nominally scheduled for September 2026, due to concerns about hardware readiness and mission complexity.

Under one of the options, astronauts would launch into low-Earth orbit inside an Orion spacecraft and rendezvous there with a Starship vehicle, separately launched by SpaceX. During this mission, similar to Apollo 9, a precursor to the Apollo 11 lunar landing, the crew would validate the ability of Orion and Starship to dock and test habitability inside Starship. The crew would then return to Earth. In another option NASA is considering, a crew would launch in Orion and fly to a small space station near the Moon, the Lunar Gateway, and then return to Earth.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments