It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…well, it’s actually the Peregrine moon lander, but it won’t be landing on the moon anytime soon! This little spacecraft, built for NASA by the private space robotics technology company Astrobotic, is making quite the fiery comeback to Earth after a failed mission to touch down on the lunar surface.
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) January 16, 2024
The Peregrine lander aimed for the stars and launched on a Vulcan Centaur rocket in Cape Canaveral, Florida. It had big dreams of being the first U.S. mission to land on the moon in over 50 years. But, just when it seemed like it was smooth sailing, disaster struck! A pesky propellant fuel leak dashed all hopes of a successful lunar landing.
Now, instead of a triumphant touchdown, the Peregrine lander is hurtling back to Earth, expected to burn up as it reenters the atmosphere. Yikes! But don’t worry, the folks at Astrobotic insist there’s no need to panic. They claim there’s absolutely no safety concern over this little spacecraft turning into a shooting star on its way home.
The company suspects that a stuck valve might be to blame for this epic fail, causing a tank to burst and sending the mission off course. Astrobotic even went as far as to tweet about the lander’s treacherous journey back home, informing the world that the little guy is 218,000 miles from Earth as of Jan. 15. But buckle up, because NASA will be keeping an eye on the Peregrine’s “final trajectory path” over the next few days to see where it might meet its fiery fate. The mission is set to go up in smoke on Jan. 18, so mark your calendars!
In the midst of all this chaos, Astrobotic is in cahoots with NASA to figure out how to safely pull the plug on this doomed mission without causing any trouble for nearby satellites or messing up future space travel plans. They seem to be pretty chummy, as the company emphasized in a detailed press release that they’re all about “preserving the future” by responsibly ending Peregrine’s mission. What a noble cause, even in the face of such a spectacular failure!
But fear not, space enthusiasts! Astrobotic will still be keeping an eye on the wayward spacecraft, providing status updates until the bitter end. And if you thought the party was over, think again! Another U.S. company, Intuitive Machines, is gearing up to launch its own lunar lander next month. Let’s hope they have better luck than the ill-fated Peregrine!