The Peregrine 1, the first commercial moon lander in the United States in over 50 years, faces an uncertain fate as a result of a fuel leak. The lunar mission, led by Astrobotic, encountered a critical loss of propellant and propulsion system anomaly just hours after its successful lift-off from Cape Canaveral on the powerful Vulcan Centaur rocket built by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed.
Astrobotic, the space company behind the project, aimed to achieve a soft landing on the moon, marking a milestone in commercial lunar exploration.
While the solar array is functioning, the thrusters on the Peregrine 1 may only operate for a maximum of 40 more hours. The primary objective now is to navigate the lander as close to lunar distance as possible before losing the ability to maintain its sun-pointing position and subsequently running out of power.
The Peregrine 1 mission, carrying scientific equipment provided by NASA, intended to gather crucial data about the lunar surface for future human missions. The scientific instruments on board include devices for measuring radiation levels, surface and subsurface water ice, the magnetic field, and the exosphere – an extremely tenuous layer of gas surrounding the moon.
A unique aspect of this mission is the inclusion of five small moon rovers, each weighing less than 60g and measuring a mere 12cm across. The fate of non-scientific payloads, such as DNA from former US presidents and the ashes of Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, along with those of former stars from the TV series, remains uncertain due to the ongoing fuel leak and limited thruster operation on Peregrine 1.
In light of the propulsion challenges, Peregrine 1 will now conduct experiments in space before its batteries are depleted. NASA, collaborating with Astrobotic, investigates the root cause of the propulsion problem.
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