Whoops! NASA Supported Moon Lander Failed, Now Hurtling Back Toward Earth

In an unexpected turn of events, the Peregrine One lander, a significant part of NASA’s Artemis program, suffered a critical failure, derailing its ambitious mission to the moon and is now hurtling its way back to Earth.

This setback marks a deviation from the U.S.’s lunar aspirations since the Apollo era, as the lander, plagued by a propellant leak, now faces an inevitable demise in Earth’s atmosphere.

Crafted by Astrobotic under a hefty $108 million NASA contract, Peregrine One’s role was crucial. It was designated as a precursor to the Artemis astronauts’ moon landing, scheduled for 2026.

Its scientific objective was to deploy instruments to investigate the moon’s surface and radiation. However, the mission’s trajectory took a drastic turn, as Astrobotic revealed in a somber announcement: “Our latest assessment now shows the spacecraft is on a path towards Earth, where it will likely burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.”

The lander’s payload was not only significant for scientific purposes but also carried sentimental value. It transported 20 payloads, including scientific instruments and the DNA of U.S. Presidents Kennedy, Eisenhower, and Washington.

In a poignant twist, it also bore the remains of Star Trek’s Gene Roddenberry and around 60 others, intended for lunar rest. These are now presumed lost, a casualty of the lander’s impending atmospheric re-entry.

Launched a week prior aboard a Vulcan rocket from Cape Canaveral, the mission initially showed promise. Peregrine separated successfully from the rocket and activated.

The ensuing catastrophe, as Astrobotic elaborated, was swift and devastating: “But shortly after the separation, the spaceship experienced an onboard explosion resulting in a critical loss of fuel.”

This malfunction in the propulsion system led to a struggle in aligning the solar panels with the sun, draining its power reserves. Even after realigning the panels, the leak-induced spin necessitated excessive fuel use, sealing the lander’s fate.

Despite the unforeseen end of its lunar journey, Astrobotic reassured the public about the controlled nature of its re-entry, stating, “We do not believe Peregrine‚Äôs re-entry poses safety risks.”

They emphasized their ongoing collaboration with NASA and the U.S. government to ensure a safe descent. Moreover, they extracted some success from the ordeal, as they “have been able to power up science experiments they were carrying for NASA and other space agencies and gather spaceflight data.”

Despite this setback, Astrobotic remains hopeful, looking towards their next mission in November with the Griffin lander, which will carry NASA’s Viper rover to the moon’s southern pole, reported the Daily Mail.

This mishap occurs amid a burgeoning global space race, dubbed “space race 2.0,” with nations like China and India, notably India’s Chandrayaan-3, making strides in lunar exploration.

While Peregrine One’s journey concludes prematurely, the pursuit to unravel the secrets of the moon and beyond persists, driven by determination and an undimmed spirit of exploration.