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Lost in Space? Peregrine Spacecraft Scheduled for Moon Landing Now Orbiting Without Definitive Resolution

Flight to Moon Looks Doubtful for Peregrine Lander
Source: MEGA

The Vulcan rocket launch of Peregrine was successful. But then trouble happened.

Jan. 15 2024, Published 1:01 p.m. ET

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Scientists are grappling with challenges in a lunar expedition as the Peregrine spacecraft encountered difficulties during its initial hours, potentially jeopardizing what could have been the first U.S. moon mission since the 1970s, according to sources.

The Peregrine voyage, launched flawlessly before dawn on Jan. 8 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, by the private Astrobotic Technology.

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However, after the Peregrine lander separated from its Vulcan rocket and entered Earth's orbit, an unexpected "anomaly" emerged, as reported by mission managers.

The spacecraft's propulsion system failed to turn towards the sun, crucial for power generation. Despite successful realignment efforts by scientists, a significant amount of fuel was lost, potentially hindering the spacecraft from reaching the moon.

In a statement from Astrobotic, they acknowledged a "critical loss" and are exploring "alternative mission profiles," hinting at the possibility of abandoning moon exploration, Reuters reported.

Developers, however, are trying to remain optimistic about the situation. Notably, the Vulcan rocket's maiden launch was smooth, marking a milestone for the privately-funded collaboration between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

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The United Launch Alliance's chief executive, Tory Bruno, praised the launch's precision, emphasizing the potential competition Vulcan poses to SpaceX's reusable Falcon 9 rockets.

While a successful second Vulcan launch could lead to its certification for U.S. Defense Department missions, the focus remains on resolving Peregrine's issues. Astrobotic expressed concern in a statement, acknowledging that the propulsion problem "threatens the ability of the spacecraft to soft land on the moon."

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Originally scheduled for a lunar landing on Feb. 23 with 20 payloads, Peregrine is currently orbiting without a definitive resolution.

Despite the challenges, Astrobotic emphasized its commitment to maximizing scientific data capture. The setback is disheartening for the company, especially considering the anticipation expressed by CEO John Thornton, who remarked, "This is the moment we've been waiting for for 16 years" after the successful launch.

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