The US space agency Nasa still sees the "Artemis 2" mission on the right track for a flight around the moon in November 2024. An exact date is still being worked on, Nasa said at a press conference on Tuesday. The US astronaut Christina Koch, her US colleagues Victor Glover and Reid Wiseman and the Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen had previously visited the "Orion" capsule in the US state of Florida for the first time, in which they are to start the space flight.
The four astronauts would be the first people to be near the moon since the astronauts of the "Apollo 17" mission entered the moon in 1972 for some time. The "Artemis 2" mission, which is scheduled to last around ten days, would be the first manned "Artemis" launch after the successful test of the "Artemis 1" mission in December. About a year after "Artemis 2", another manned flight including moon landing is to follow with "Artemis 3".
Esa is also involved
The "Artemis" program, named after the Greek goddess of the moon, is intended to land a woman and a non-white person on the moon for the first time. The European Space Agency Esa and space agencies from several other countries are involved in "Artemis".
The last time people were on the moon was with the "Apollo 17" mission around 50 years ago - the landing took place on December 11, 1972. Overall, the USA was the only country with the "Apollo" missions between 1969 and 1972 to have twelve astronauts the moon.
Russia also wants to go back to the moon - and on Friday the unmanned space probe "Luna-25" will be launched, the first mission of this kind in almost 50 years. "Luna-25" is part of the Russian lunar program. This envisages building a space station on the earth's satellite by 2040. Russia is thus building on its Soviet "Luna" program, in which space probes also brought moon rocks to Earth. Moscow last sent the Luna-24 probe to the moon in 1976.
Tensions between Russia and the USA
"We wish them all the best," said NASA CEO Bill Nelson at Tuesday's press conference. "As you know, we have a constructive relationship with them." Tensions have been high between Russia and the United States since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but both sides have always emphasized that cooperation in space is still working.
With regard to manned moon landings, however, the USA is further ahead than Russia and also than China, stressed Nelson. "I don't think many people would say that Russia is ready to land cosmonauts on the moon in the timeframe we're talking about -- or that China would be."