The Fate of the Leaking Lunar Lander: A Costly Setback for Astrobotic

The Fate of the Leaking Lunar Lander: A Costly Setback for Astrobotic

Astrobotic, a private US space exploration company, is facing a major setback as its lunar lander, Peregrine, is now heading towards Earth instead of completing its intended mission on the Moon. The spacecraft has been leaking fuel since the beginning of its ill-fated journey, causing an onboard explosion and rendering a soft lunar touchdown impossible. With the likelihood of burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere, Astrobotic is left assessing its options and dealing with the consequences of this costly failure.

On January 8, the Peregrine lander took off from Earth on a brand new Vulcan rocket built by United Launch Alliance. However, shortly after its separation from the rocket, the spacecraft experienced an onboard explosion, leading to the realization that it would be unable to achieve a soft lunar touchdown due to the significant propellant loss. Despite this setback, Astrobotic’s team managed to activate the science experiments on board and collect valuable spaceflight data.

Currently, the Peregrine lander is approximately 242,000 miles away from Earth, with no possibility of completing its intended mission. Astrobotic has acknowledged that the spacecraft is now on a trajectory towards Earth, where it will likely burn up in the atmosphere. This outcome is undoubtedly disappointing for both Astrobotic and its supporters, who had hoped for a successful hard landing on the Moon. Unfortunately, the fate of the Peregrine lander serves as a reminder of the challenges and risks involved in space exploration.

Losses and Private Clients

In addition to carrying science hardware and experiments for NASA and other space agencies, the Peregrine lander also had cargo for private clients of Astrobotic. This cargo includes items such as a sports drink can, a physical Bitcoin, as well as human and animal ashes and DNA. The failure of the mission not only affects Astrobotic’s reputation but also results in financial losses, as NASA had paid the company over $100 million for transporting its cargo as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program.

Lessons Learned and Future Attempts

Astrobotic’s failed lunar landing is not an isolated incident, as other private entities, such as an Israeli nonprofit and a Japanese company, have also faced similar setbacks. Despite this setback, NASA remains committed to its strategy of “more shots on goal” in order to increase the chances of success in future missions. In fact, another private company, Houston-based Intuitive Machines, is set to launch its lunar lander in February. Astrobotic itself will also have another opportunity in November, as it plans to transport NASA’s VIPER rover to the lunar south pole with its Griffin lander.

The leaking lunar lander and subsequent failure of the Peregrine mission have undoubtedly been a significant setback for Astrobotic. Losing control over the spacecraft and the propellant leaks have dashed the hopes of a successful lunar landing. However, failures in space exploration are not uncommon, and they often provide valuable lessons for future missions. As Astrobotic and other private entities continue to strive for success in lunar exploration, the challenges and risks involved serve as constant reminders of the difficulties of reaching the Moon and beyond.

Space

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