Problems for the Peregrine probe: landing on the moon is now in jeopardy

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Everything seemed perfect. The launch of the new ULA Vulcan rocket, which took place yesterday, January 8, 2024, from Cape Canaveral, brought the Peregrine probe from the private American company Astrobotic precisely into orbit around the Earth, from which it would then move to the orbit of the Moon. Unfortunately – reports Astrobotic – the situation worsened dramatically a few hours after the start. In fact, the probe has begun to suffer from a severe anomaly that causes it to lose propellant along the way. In the latest press releases published by Astrobotic, we read that “unfortunately, a fault in the propulsion system appears to be causing the serious losses.”

The task force of the historic mission (it is actually the first probe to leave the US territory and head for the moon in more than 50 years) is trying to stabilize this loss, but given the situation, the company still intends to give priority to maximizing scientific content and collecting data that can get on the way to the moon. The probe’s batteries are currently charged (which is actually a good thing) and everything is being done to make the most of the current situation.

The next 36 hours. However, if the situation remains as it is, the probe could continue to fly towards the moon for another 36 hours, after which it may no longer be able to maintain the correct position with respect to the sun, and therefore the solar panels will no longer work. able to supply energy and fate will be sealed. Meanwhile, the lander has sent the first image back to Earth, showing in the foreground the multi-layer that protects the probe from radiation (look down).

According to the original program, Peregrine was (or was supposed to be…) to land on the lunar surface on February 23. There are many commercial and scientific payloads on board the lander. NASA contracted Astrobotic to transport five science experiments designed and overseen by the agency; some were to study the lunar surface, atmosphere and environment around the lander, while the Laser Retroreflector Array experiment aimed to install a system of mirrors to reflect laser beams sent from Earth to measure the Earth-Moon Distance with extreme precision. Also on board are five small autonomous robots from Mexico and a small Lunar Rover built by Carnegie Mellon University students.

There is also a rock sample from Mount Everest, and the space companies Celestis and Elysium Space have uploaded DNA and human ashes. Other commercial cargo is also on board, including lunar bitcoin, an archive of miniaturized books and texts from the Arch Mission Foundation, and logistics and shipping company DHL’s “MoonBox,” which contains memories and messages from 100,000 people around the world. All of these costs now balance unless Astrobotic corrects the anomaly Peregrine is currently experiencing. For now, we just have to wait for the next events.



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