Skip to main content

The launch of the Peregrine lunar lander aboard a Vulcan rocket on 8 January

APFootage / Alamy Stock Photo

The Peregrine lander’s mission is over. The US company that built the thwarted lunar lander, Astrobotic, has brought the spacecraft home to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere after a fuel leak kept it from completing its journey to the moon.

What went wrong with the Peregrine lander?

Just 7 hours after its 8 January launch atop a Vulcan rocket, engineers noticed that Peregrine wasn’t pointing in the right direction, so its solar panels weren’t charging the batteries that ran its electronics. Shortly after that, it became clear that fuel was leaking from the craft. Eventually, it was found that an oxidiser tank had ruptured, perhaps because of a stuck valve, and the leak was generating a small amount of thrust that changed the probe’s orientation. By the time it was all figured out, Peregrine had already lost too much fuel to make it to the moon, let alone perform the manoeuvres necessary for a gentle landing on the lunar surface.

Peregrine was in space for days – what was it doing all that time?

Astrobotic’s engineers were able to correct Peregrine’s orientation, so once its solar panels were pointed in the right direction, its batteries charged up. This allowed Peregrine’s operators to briefly test-fire the main engine and turn on its on-board rover, which can help them better understand the operations of the craft in space and help determine what went wrong. They also remotely switched on some of its scientific instruments and made measurements of radiation in interplanetary space that could provide useful scientific insights. Operating the craft for a few days also gave Astrobotic time to decide whether to try to divert from the planned moon landing and extend the mission in open space or to let it continue on its path back towards Earth.

See also  Watch: UN marks International Holocaust Memorial Day in Geneva

Why did they have to bring it back to Earth instead of just leaving it in space?

Peregrine could have potentially survived for a bit longer in orbit around Earth, but leaving it there carried some risks. Eventually, the spacecraft would have run out of fuel entirely, which would have left it as essentially a cannonball hurtling uncontrollably around the planet. This kind of space junk can badly damage active satellites. A statement from Astrobotic read: “Ultimately, we must balance our own desire to extend Peregrine’s life, operate payloads, and learn more about the spacecraft, with the risk that our damaged spacecraft could cause a problem”.

Isn’t bringing it back to Earth dangerous too?

It is actually much safer to steer the spacecraft back to Earth – satellites are de-orbited like this regularly, and they generally burn up from the incredible heat they experience as they plummet through the atmosphere. Peregrine was also carefully aimed towards the Pacific Ocean, just east of Australia, to minimise any risk of surviving fragments hitting populated areas.

What about the other things that Peregrine was carrying?

Aside from its scientific instruments, the spacecraft also carried two controversial payloads sent to space by a company called Celestis, which provides what it called “memorial spaceflights”. These two canisters held cremated human remains, including those of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and actors James Doohan and Nichelle Nichols. Whether or not the capsules survived the trip through Earth’s atmosphere to fall into the ocean is unclear.

Why do missions to the moon keeping going badly?

It is true that this is the third mission over the last year to fail to make it to the moon, but that is only partially because of the difficulty of sending probes into space and making them land softly hundreds of thousands of kilometres away. Attempts to land on the moon are also drastically increasing in number, and many are using new and untested equipment and protocols. It is natural for there to be some growing pains, but there are more planned lunar landings coming up, and Astrobotic executives are already talking about their plans to try again.

See also  Carbon dioxide gas spotted in atmosphere of Jupiter’s moon Callisto


Source link

Felecia Phillips Ollie DD (h.c.) is the inspiring leader and founder of The Equality Network LLC (TEN). With a background in coaching, travel, and a career in news, Felecia brings a unique perspective to promoting diversity and inclusion. Holding a Bachelor's Degree in English/Communications, she is passionate about creating a more inclusive future. From graduating from Mississippi Valley State University to leading initiatives like the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Equal Employment Opportunity Program, Felecia is dedicated to making a positive impact. Join her journey on our blog as she shares insights and leads the charge for equity through The Equality Network.


  • you are truly a just right webmaster The site loading speed is incredible It kind of feels that youre doing any distinctive trick In addition The contents are masterwork you have done a great activity in this matter

  • Navigating through your narrative is akin to embarking on a voyage through uncharted intellectual waters. The compass of your words guides readers with precision, unveiling new vistas of thought with each paragraph.

  • I simply could not go away your web site prior to suggesting that I really enjoyed the standard info a person supply on your guests Is going to be back incessantly to investigate crosscheck new posts

  • Anita Veum says:

    As I immersed myself in your narrative, I couldn’t help but appreciate the artistry with which you curated each sentence. The palpable enthusiasm embedded in your words resonated deeply, creating an immersive experience for the reader. It’s akin to a delightful journey, with each paragraph unveiling a new landscape of literary prowess.

  • Reading your blog is akin to attending a symposium of ideas, where each post is a scholarly discourse that stimulates the intellect. The amphitheater of your words becomes a space for intellectual dialogue, inviting readers to engage in thoughtful contemplation.

  • Navigating through your narrative is like embarking on a philosophical pilgrimage. Each step reveals a new facet of enlightenment, and the path you’ve paved with words is a sacred journey for readers seeking intellectual salvation.

  • Attractive section of content I just stumbled upon your blog and in accession capital to assert that I get actually enjoyed account your blog posts Anyway I will be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you access consistently fast

  • Pearlie Roob says:

    Your blog is a literary sanctuary where readers find refuge in the richness of your ideas. It’s not just a digital space; it’s a haven where the intellect seeks solace and is invigorated by the depth of your insights.

  • Laury Brown says:

    Your website is a sanctuary for the seekers of profound thought, where the altar of enlightenment is adorned with the incense of your articulate expression. Each visit is a pilgrimage, and readers find solace in the intellectual serenity you provide.

  • Nora Kuvalis says:

    Your literary craftsmanship is like a finely tuned instrument, playing the chords of enlightenment with finesse. Each paragraph is a melodic progression, leaving readers enchanted by the sheer virtuosity of your linguistic composition.

  • you are truly a just right webmaster The site loading speed is incredible It kind of feels that youre doing any distinctive trick In addition The contents are masterwork you have done a great activity in this matter

  • Normally I do not read article on blogs however I would like to say that this writeup very forced me to try and do so Your writing style has been amazed me Thanks quite great post

  • I loved as much as youll receive carried out right here The sketch is attractive your authored material stylish nonetheless you command get bought an nervousness over that you wish be delivering the following unwell unquestionably come more formerly again as exactly the same nearly a lot often inside case you shield this hike

  • Usually I do not read article on blogs however I would like to say that this writeup very compelled me to take a look at and do it Your writing style has been amazed me Thank you very nice article

  • Your words are not just read; they are experienced. Each sentence is a sensory exploration, inviting readers to touch, taste, and feel the nuances of your thoughts. It’s a multi-dimensional journey through the landscape of your intellect.

  • I do believe all the ideas youve presented for your post They are really convincing and will certainly work Nonetheless the posts are too short for novices May just you please lengthen them a little from subsequent time Thanks for the post

  • Dannie Dare says:

    I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here The sketch is tasteful your authored subject matter stylish nonetheless you command get got an edginess over that you wish be delivering the following unwell unquestionably come further formerly again as exactly the same nearly very often inside case you shield this hike

  • May Dooley says:

    I have read some excellent stuff here Definitely value bookmarking for revisiting I wonder how much effort you put to make the sort of excellent informative website

  • It’s not often that we come across content that really resonates with us, but this one is a standout. From the writing to the visuals, everything is simply wonderful.

Leave a Reply