NASA has broken the news to the White House and the world that speeding up the first crewed flight of its exploration launch system wouldn’t be worth the added cost and risk.
That means the first launch of NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System will fly without astronauts, as originally planned. And it will fly later than planned: NASA officials said today that liftoff will have to be delayed to 2019, although it’s too early to be more precise about the time frame.
The determination comes after weeks of discussions focusing on whether the flight plan for what’s known as Exploration Mission 1, or EM-1, could be tweaked to put people on board. Such a scenario would give the White House more to celebrate in President Donald Trump’s first term.
“We decided that while it’s technically feasible … the baseline plan that we had in place was the best way for us to go,” Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator, told reporters today during a teleconference.