In a significant setback to lunar exploration, the Peregrine 1, aiming to be the first US commercial space probe to make a soft landing on the moon in half a century, faces a bleak outcome due to a critical fuel leak.
Shortly after liftoff, Peregrine 1 encountered a “critical loss of propellant” attributed to an anomaly in the propulsion system. Despite successful maneuvers to orient the spacecraft towards the sun for battery charging, Astrobotic revealed that the thrusters could operate for a maximum of 40 more hours. The revised mission, as stated by the Pittsburgh-based company, aims to bring Peregrine as close to lunar distance as possible for data collection relevant to future lunar endeavors.
The latest update confirms Peregrine 1’s unfortunate fate of having “no chance of a soft landing on the moon.” Astrobotic, however, remains optimistic about gathering valuable data from the mission that could prove beneficial for upcoming lunar missions. The spacecraft, carrying Nasa scientific equipment and small moon rovers, was launched on the powerful Vulcan Centaur rocket from Cape Canaveral, marking the debut of the United Launch Alliance’s new rocket.
Originally scheduled for a lunar landing on February 23, Peregrine 1 was set to commence data collection on the lunar surface. Scientific instruments on board include those measuring radiation levels, surface and subsurface water ice, the magnetic field, and the exosphere. Non-scientific payloads, such as DNA from former US presidents and the ashes of Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, are also part of the mission.
Nasa, responding to the mission’s setback, collaborates with Astrobotic to identify the propulsion problem’s root cause, acknowledging the inherent difficulties of space exploration. Meanwhile, the Artemis moon program faces additional delays, with the first crewed lunar landing now scheduled for September 2026, reflecting the broader challenges confronting spacecraft development by SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, and other contractors.
The space agency refrains from providing contextual details regarding the Peregrine 1 news, emphasizing the complexity and uncertainties associated with space missions. Despite this setback, the pursuit of lunar exploration continues, albeit with recalibrated timelines and aspirations.