Skip to main content

Check out the first image from Peregrine lunar lander

The first image of Astrobotic's Peregrine spacecraft.
Astrobotic

UPDATE: Astrobotic confirmed on Monday evening that the Peregrine lander will not be able to make it to the lunar surface. In a post on social media, it said that an ongoing propellant leak is causing the spacecraft’s thrusters to operate “well beyond their expected service life cycles to keep the lander from an uncontrollable tumble.” It added that based on the current rate of fuel consumption, the spacecraft’s thrusters could continue to operate for about 40 more hours, adding: “At this time, the goal is to get Peregrine as close to lunar distance as we can before it loses the ability to maintain its sun-pointing position and subsequently loses power.”

Astrobotic’s Peregrine spacecraft has beamed back its first image (above) and it provides the first visual evidence of a propulsion system anomaly.

The mission to put the first American commercial robotic lander on the moon got off to a perfect start early on Monday with a smooth launch aboard United Launch Alliance’s brand new Vulcan Centaur rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

But hours later, Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic confirmed that a failure within the spacecraft’s propulsion system had caused “a critical loss of propellant.”

The team said that the given the situation, it was now reassessing the goals for Peregrine Mission 1, suggesting that a successful lunar landing was now highly unlikely.

The image shared by Astrobotic was captured by a camera attached to a payload deck on the spacecraft. It shows a disturbance to the Multi-Layer Insulation (MLI) in the foreground, which the company said offered “the first visual clue that aligns with our telemetry data that points to a propulsion system anomaly.”

It added that it was using the spacecraft’s existing power “to perform as many payload and spacecraft operations as possible” and promised more updates just as soon as they become available.

Update #5 for Peregrine Mission One: pic.twitter.com/94wy2J0GyA

— Astrobotic (@astrobotic) January 8, 2024

In an earlier post on social media, Astrobotic expressed gratitude “for the outpouring of support we’re receiving,” adding, “This is what makes the space industry so special, that we unite in the face of adversity. A heartfelt thank you from the entire Peregrine Mission 1 team.”

The almost certain failure of Peregrine Mission 1 is a major disappointment not only for Astrobotic, but for NASA, too. The U.S. space agency had been hoping to see Peregrine become the first privately built lander to achieve a soft landing on the moon, paving the way for further commercial missions to our nearest neighbor.

The mission, had it reached the lunar surface, would’ve conducted scientific research on the lunar environment ahead of future crewed moon missions as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

Peregrine Mission 1 was made possible by CLIPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services), which involves NASA partnering with private firms to send science missions to the moon ahead of the first Artemis crewed landing, which is currently scheduled to take place next year.

Despite the setback, Astrobotic will continue to plan for the launch of Griffin Mission One later this year. Griffin is the largest lunar lander since the Apollo lunar module and will carry NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the south pole of the moon. VIPER will search for the presence of water ice in the permanently shadowed regions of Mons Mouton.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
NASA video highlights first commercial delivery service to the moon
How a paved road and landing pad might look on the moon.

NASA Sparks Commercial Delivery Service to the Moon

NASA has shared a short video highlighting its plan to launch the first-ever commercial delivery service to the moon.

Read more
Blue Origin shows off 3-story Blue Moon lunar lander mock-up
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos with NASA boss Bill Nelson in front of a mock-up of the Blue Moon lunar lander.

Previous

Next

Read more
NASA’s moon buggies could one day be driving on lunar roads
How a paved road and landing pad might look on the moon.

The moon looks set to receive more visitors than it’s ever had, with NASA and its partners planning to build a permanent base on the lunar surface for extended stays by astronauts.

Crews will explore the lunar surface in next-generation rovers, but mission planners have serious concerns about all of the damaging dust that those buggies will kick up as they go.

Read more