SpaceNews interviewed NASA chief Bill Nelson hours before the agency stated about suspending construction of the lunar module. Nelson said that because of Blue Origin even since the complaint to the U.S. Chamber of Accounts has had to delay the project. According to him, the date of Artemis resumption depends directly on the court decision.
According to SpaceNews, in late July of this year, Nelson refused to answer several questions about the implementation of the Artemis mission by 2024. He referred to the suspension of the program due to complaints Blue Origin to the U.S. Chamber of Accounts. Jeff Bezos’ company tried to challenge NASA’s decision to award the contract to build SpaceX’s lunar landing module, but the agency found the agency’s actions to be lawful.
On the day of the Court of Auditors ruling, NASA gave SpaceX a portion of the money to begin work on the spacecraft. It did not last long, as the next step was for Blue Origin to file a lawsuit in U.S. federal court demanding that the records be classified and that work on the project be halted. The court issued a protective order for the lawsuit data in mid-August.
On Aug. 19, NASA voluntarily suspended work on the mission without waiting for a court order. In exchange, the judge agreed to expedite the process. The hearing is scheduled for Oct. 14 of this year. The trial should be over by the first of November of this year.
In an interview with SpaceNews, Nelson pointed out that NASA is not actually pursuing the case. The agency’s lawyers are providing information to U.S. Justice Department lawyers to speed up the process, but NASA is not yet in a position to influence it in any way. For now, everything is in the hands of the Justice Department and a federal judge. Their decision will determine when the mission will be launched.
Nelson identified requests for additional funding and production of space suits as other important factors in the development of the project. In early August, the agency noted that their delivery could be delayed until 2025. Because of this, it will not be possible to implement the project in 2024. Also, the agency does not have enough funds to meet Blue Origin’s requirements. To make it happen, the U.S. government must allocate an additional budget.
When asked directly if the mission would work out in 2024, Nelson said he didn’t know. Current problems make it impossible to form a prediction. At the same time, the head of the agency assured that the launch of the Artemis 1 mission spacecraft scheduled for November of this year will take place. If it will be postponed, then no later than January 2022.