A render of SLS Block 1B launching from LC-39B

NASA Sets Out New Timeline For Moon And Mars Missions

NASA's budget, strategic plans and performance reports have been released. This article will exclusively look at the upcoming manifest for Moon and Mars missions by NASA that were mentioned in it.

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Delta V

Delta V

Mon Mar 13 2023Written by Delta V

NASA's budget, strategic plans and performance reports have been released. This article will look at the upcoming manifest for Moon and Mars missions by NASA that were mentioned in it. All dates mentioned are subject to change.


SpaceX will develop novel technologies to be able to transfer cryogenic propellants between the ‘tanker’ Starship spacecraft and the lander itself. SpaceX is set to perform a "Cryogenic Fluid Management" test in late 2023, which will begin a rigorous testing campaign testing the propellant transfer technology. The fuel transferred to the lunar lander will allow it to travel to and from the lunar surface from a Low Earth Orbit.

October will see the long-awaited Psyche launch on a Falcon Heavy. Psyche is a NASA interplanetary mission to visit the main belt asteroid "16 Psyche". Originally slated to launch in 2022, Psyche’s journey to the metallic asteroid has been long anticipated. Due to falling behind on its development timeline, specifically with the satellite's programming interface, NASA pushed the launch date back to 2023.


In 2024, NASA plans to get their flagship Artemis II mission launched NET November, performing a crewed flight to the Moon and back. 

At an unknown point in 2024, SpaceX will perform an uncrewed demonstration landing of their Starship HLS. The demonstration would verify and reinforce the technologies present on the HLS spacecraft, including the avionics, landing systems, and surface operations. This test will qualify the HLS spacecraft for its crewed demo, currently scheduled for the Artemis II mission scheduled for 2025.

Blue Origin will launch EscaPADE (Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explores) on their New Glenn rocket no earlier than August 2024. The twin spacecraft will explore and map the dynamic magnetosphere of Mars.


Starship HLS landed on the Moon render. Image credit: SpaceX

2025 will be one of the biggest years so far for the Artemis programme. Artemis III will perform a crewed landing on the surface of the Moon, the first since Apollo 17 in 1972. The Starship HLS and xEVA Surface Suits should be ready by this point too or a landing and EVA wouldn’t be possible. This will also be the year of Gateway, as the PPE & HALO modules are launched on a Falcon Heavy. 


Compared to 2025, 2026 should be relatively quiet with there being no planned crewed Artemis mission. The PPE & HALO modules for Gateway will arrive in their NRHO (Near-rectilinear halo orbit) sometime this year after a launch in 2025. Launched by SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, PPE & HALO are key logistics modules for the Lunar Gateway Space Station. PPE, for Power and Propulsion Element, houses the electric ion engines used as the primary control for the station. HALO is the Habitation and Logistics Outpost for the gateway station, housing crew quarters, docking ports, and logistical control for the gateway station. 

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will continue operations in lunar orbit. 


2027 will also be pretty quiet for Artemis compared to 2025. Most of the ground-based operations at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) will be spent in preparation for the Artemis IV launch, which will be debuting the new SLS Block 1B rocket. A major ground development project at the KSC will be the construction of the Mobile Launcher-2 (ML-2) for SLS Block 1B. 

The Mars Sample Return (MSR) and Earth-Return Orbiter will be launched in 2027. 


Dragon XL approaching Gateway render. Image credit: NASA

2028 is expected to be a big year for Artemis as the new SLS Block 1B rocket will debut for the Artemis IV mission. Planned to launch NET September, Artemis IV will use the new ML-2 as its launch platform. The I-Hab module will be sent to the Lunar Gateway and the first Deep Space Logistics (DSL) Mission will happen. DSL will use a Dragon XL spacecraft to resupply Gateway, in a similar fashion to how Dragon 2 Crago does with the ISS. Artemis IV will be the first long-duration stay of an Artemis Crew on the lunar surface, with the Starship HLS lander being the lander servicing the mission. This is currently the last Starship HLS scheduled with SpaceX.

The Sustained HLS Lander will also have its first scheduled demonstration in 2028. This uncrewed mission will prove the currently undecided lander for future crewed use in the Artemis Program.

NASA's budget supports collaboration with ESA on their ExoMars Rosalind Franklin Mission, targeted to launch to Mars in 2028.


SLS Block 1B launching render. Image credit: NASA

Yearly missions with SLS Block 1B will be underway by this point and DSL services to Gateway should also follow this frequency. In 2029, the ESPRIT module will arrive at Gateway along with the Gateway External Robotic Arm (Canadarm3). 2029 will also be the year the second HLS option performs a crewed lunar demo. A Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) will be used for Artemis V in 2029, allowing the crew more flexibility and mobility on the lunar surface. 

2030 will see the Mars Sample Return Ascent Vehicle launch from the surface of Mars. 

On the Artemis VII mission in 2031, we may see a pressurised rover being used for the first time.

A chart showing many of the things in the manifest.