Nasa has replaced the head of its human space exploration in a major shake-up, as the agency scrambles to meet President Trump's ambitious deadline to return astronauts to the moon by 2024.
AFP reports that the project – named Artemis – would be the first attempt to return humans to the lunar surface since the last Apollo landing in 1972, but some experts doubt if the deadline is realistic given budgetary delays in developing the next-generation of rockets and equipment needed for the journey.
The American plan to return humans, including the first woman, to the moon is beset with delays and cost overruns, according to officials. For example, the cost of Boeing's giant Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, vital for success of the project, has risen by nearly 30% to $8 billion, and its already-delayed first flight is unlikely to occur by June 2020 as scheduled.
Critics have said such tight deadlines may lead to serious risk-taking to save time, including reducing the amount of testing done on rockets.
Vice President Mike Pence, who announced the accelerated 2024 target in March, has criticised Nasa for "bureaucratic inertia" and asked for a new mind-set.