Peregrine (the lander), will have no one on board. Photo by: WikiImages
After a hiatus of over 50 years since the last Apollo mission, the United States is set to make a return to the Moon on January 25, according to the CEO of Astrobotic, a potential pioneer in private lunar landings. The unmanned lander, Peregrine, developed by the American company Astrobotic, will carry NASA instruments to investigate the lunar environment, anticipating NASA’s upcoming Artemis manned missions.
Astrobotic, among other US companies, was chosen by NASA to participate in the CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) program, which involves sending scientific experiments and technologies to the Moon through fixed-price contracts. This initiative aims to facilitate the development of a lunar economy by providing cost-effective transport services.
John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic, emphasized the significant challenge of achieving a lunar launch and landing at a fraction of the traditional cost during a press briefing on November 29 in Pittsburgh. Approximately half of previous Moon missions faced success, making the endeavor both thrilling and daunting, according to Thornton.
The scheduled takeoff for Peregrine is on December 24 from Florida, utilizing the inaugural flight of the new Vulcan Centaur rocket from the ULA industrial group. Following launch, the probe will take a few days to reach lunar orbit. However, the actual landing attempt is slated for January 25, allowing for optimal light conditions at the target location, as explained by Thornton. The descent will be autonomously executed, with monitoring conducted from Astrobotic’s control center.
While Astrobotic aims to be the first private company to successfully land on the Moon, previous attempts by others, such as the Japanese start-up ispace, ended in failure. Astrobotic is joined by other companies, including Firefly Aerospace, Draper, and Intuitive Machines, with the latter scheduled to launch aboard a SpaceX rocket in January. Acknowledging the associated risks, Chris Culbert, the CLPS program manager, stated that even if every landing is not successful, CLPS has already influenced the commercial infrastructure required to establish a lunar economy.
Nasa, through its Artemis program, envisions the establishment of a lunar base, marking a significant milestone in lunar exploration.
The impending lunar mission, scheduled for January 25, represents a historic milestone for the United States, marking a resurgence in lunar exploration after a gap of more than 50 years since the last Apollo mission. Astrobotic’s Peregrine mission is poised to become a pivotal moment in space exploration, symbolizing America’s renewed commitment to lunar endeavors and technological advancements. As the world eagerly anticipates this mission, it not only signifies a significant achievement for the private space sector but also underscores NASA’s strategic vision for sustainable lunar exploration through its Artemis program. The success of the Peregrine mission holds the promise of unlocking new frontiers in space exploration, paving the way for future lunar missions and, ultimately, human habitation on the Moon.