After a critical fuel leak thwarted its lunar ambitions, the Peregrine spacecraft, on the first US mission targeting a moon landing in over 50 years, is on a trajectory back to Earth. Developed by Astrobotic Technology under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, the spacecraft faced challenges en route to the moon, prompting the decision to dispose of it with a planned fiery reentry.
Peregrine Lunar Lander Leak
The Peregrine lander’s failed moon landing attempt is a setback for NASA’s CLPS program, which engages private companies to explore the lunar surface. The fuel leak and other anomalies disrupted the mission, impacting the ambitious goal of a soft landing on the moon.
Astrobotic Technology opted to dispose of the spacecraft by allowing it to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. This decision was made due to anomalies in the propulsion system and the spacecraft’s inability to complete its intended lunar landing. Astrobotic emphasized that the reentry poses no safety risks.
The challenges faced by Peregrine highlight the complexities and risks associated with private lunar exploration missions. The incident may prompt a reassessment of strategies within NASA’s CLPS program as it seeks to involve private companies in lunar exploration efforts.
Alternative Disposal Options
While the spacecraft could have been left adrift in space or crash-landed on the moon, Astrobotic considered the potential risks associated with these options. Bringing Peregrine back to Earth for a controlled fiery reentry deemed the most responsible course of action.
The decision to bring Peregrine back to Earth is root in concerns about leaving damaged spacecraft as uncontrolled debris in space. The controlled reentry minimizes the risk of collision with other objects and adheres to responsible space practices.
Despite the mission’s setbacks, Peregrine managed to activate some science instruments and payloads. NASA’s Neutron Spectrometer System and Linear Energy Transfer Spectrometer collected valuable data on radiation levels in space. However, some payloads designed for lunar operation remain trapped aboard the spacecraft.
Future CLPS Lunar Deliveries
NASA expressed the importance of the experience gained from Peregrine’s mission. Indicating that measurements and operations of the science instruments would contribute to future CLPS lunar deliveries. The setbacks offer valuable insights for future missions aimed at lunar exploration and research.
Implications for Private Lunar Exploration
The incident underscores the complexities and uncertainties in private lunar exploration endeavors. As private companies play a crucial role in advancing lunar exploration. Addressing technical challenges and mitigating risks will be pivotal for the success of future missions.
Astrobotic Technology and NASA are expect to provide further insights during a news conference on Thursday. Shedding light on the lessons learned from the Peregrine mission and outlining plans for the future of lunar exploration.