FLORIDA: A privately built moon lander, the Peregrine, designed by space robotics firm Astrobotic, encountered a technical problem jeopardising the prospect of the first US soft lunar landing since 1972.
Launched on the maiden flight of the Vulcan rocket, a collaboration between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the mission faced challenges as the lander failed to maintain its correct sun-facing orientation in space, putting its ability to soft land on the moon at risk.
Astrobotic acknowledged the propulsion anomaly, stating: “The team believes that the likely cause of the unstable sun-pointing is a propulsion anomaly that, if proven true, threatens the ability of the spacecraft to soft-land on the moon.”
Despite making successful contact with ground teams and activating its propulsion system, the Peregrine’s journey to the moon faced a critical setback.
If Astrobotic can overcome this hurdle and proceed with its mission, the Peregrine could achieve a historic milestone as the first-ever US soft landing on the moon by a private company.
This achievement has been eagerly awaited for 16 years by Astrobotic, marking a significant moment in lunar exploration.
ULA CEO Tory Bruno expressed satisfaction with the Vulcan launch, praising years of hard work and describing it as an “absolutely beautiful mission.”
The Vulcan rocket, featuring engines from Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, aims to replace the Atlas V rocket and compete with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 in the satellite launch market.
The success of the Vulcan launch is pivotal for Boeing and Lockheed, joint owners of ULA, who have been seeking to sell the business. The launch serves as the first of two certification flights required by the US Space Force before Vulcan can undertake lucrative missions for the Pentagon.
Peregrine, scheduled to land on the moon on February 23, carries 20 payloads intended to gather data about the lunar surface, aligning with Nasa’s Artemis moon program.
This program, involving global collaboration and relying on private entities like SpaceX, envisions human missions to the moon later in the decade.
While facing uncertainties, Peregrine’s mission contributes to the ongoing sprint to the moon by various countries and private companies in the competitive space exploration landscape. Reuters
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