A “significant loss of fuel” has dampened hopes for the planned February 23 moon landing.
Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander is “not likely” to make a soft landing on the moon after experiencing a propellant leak during the first hours of its space trip, the company announced.
The lander had 40 hours of fuel left to operate “as a spacecraft” while engineers decided on a new mission in orbit, the space robotics company announced Tuesday.
The spacecraft was launched on the maiden flight of Vulcan, a rocket that has been in development for 10 years by United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
The lander successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Monday, but encountered a problem with its propulsion system en route to the moon.
After liftoff, the lander was unable to orient itself in space to face the sun, causing its battery to quickly drain, but Astrobotic said it was able to resolve the issue.
“The team continues to work to find ways to extend Peregrine’s operational life,” the team said, adding that engineers will receive the data and improve spaceflight operations for components and software related to the next lunar module mission. He added that it proves that.
As NASA prepares to send astronauts back to Earth’s closest neighbor later this decade, it will transport scientific instruments to mid-latitude regions of the moon to answer questions about the surface composition and radiation of the surrounding environment. had paid more than $100 million. .
The United States is turning to the commercial sector to stimulate the broader lunar economy and reduce costs, but Astrobotic’s failure could increase scrutiny of this strategy.
A controlled touchdown to the Moon is difficult, with about half of all attempts failing. In the absence of atmospheric conditions that allow the use of parachutes, spacecraft must navigate hazardous terrain using only thrusters for deceleration and descent.
Civil missions in Israel and Japan, as well as recent attempts by the Russian space agency, have failed, but the Japanese space agency is targeting a mid-January touchdown for the SLIM lander, launched last September. .
In addition to the scientific equipment he carried for NASA, Peregrine also has personal assets, including physical Bitcoin and cremated remains and DNA (including those of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and legendary science fiction writer Arthur). Includes a wider variety of customer-paid freight. C. Clark and his dog.
The Navajo Nation, the largest indigenous tribe in the United States, opposed sending human remains to the moon, saying it would be a desecration of their sacred space.
Although they were granted a final meeting with White House and NASA officials, their concerns were ultimately ignored.