NASA anticipates having great difficulty in fulfilling the Trump administration’s vow to return astronauts to the moon by 2024, citing concerns over funding, as well as the scale and schedule.

The agency’s Office of Inspector General has released a report outlining the challenges faced by the Artemis moon mission, which it describes as “NASA’s most ambitious and costliest ongoing activity.” It also notes that the coronavirus pandemic has “exacerbated” these challenges and “as a result, key development activities … had to be delayed or suspended.”

The report notes that “Although NASA has made significant progress to further its human exploration efforts, many questions remain about the total cost, schedule, and scope of the Agency’s lunar ambitions.”

It concludes: “Given the multiple challenges outlined above, we believe the Agency will be hard-pressed to land astronauts on the Moon by the end of 2024. At the very least, achieving any date close to this ambitious goal — and reaching Mars in the 2030s — will require strong, consistent, sustained leadership from the President, Congress, and NASA, as well as stable and timely funding.”

The OIG adds that “For its part, NASA must determine the true long-term costs of its human exploration programs, set realistic schedules, define system requirements and mission planning, form or firm up international partnerships, and leverage commercial space capabilities. Over the past decade, our oversight work has found NASA consistently struggling to address each of these significant issues and the Artemis mission’s accelerated timetable will likely further exacerbate these challenges.”

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