Trouble in Space: First US Moon Lander in 50 Years Presents ‘Anomaly’, and Mission Is Endangered – work in progress

US

The way back to the moon may prove to be harder than it seems.

The first U.S. lunar lander in more than 50 years rocketed to space Monday, but trouble seems to be already afoot.

The private lunar lander launched from the US this morning appears to have suffered an ‘anomaly’ – with experts trying to tackle the problem.

Peregrine Mission-1 – which took off on a new massive Vulcan rocket – aims to become the first US spacecraft to land on the moon’s surface since Apollo 17 in 1972; everything appeared to go well as it lifted off into space as planned.

Associated Press reported:

“But about seven hours after liftoff, Astrobotic Technology reported the solar panel on the lander wasn’t properly pointed toward the sun to generate and store power and it was investigating the issue.

The Pittsburgh company’s lander caught a ride on a brand new rocket, United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan. The Vulcan streaked through the Florida predawn sky, putting the spacecraft on a roundabout route to the moon for a landing attempt on Feb. 23.”

Astrobotic, who won a $108 million NASA contract, wants to be the first private company to land on the moon, but a Houston company will also send up a lander and could beat it to the lunar surface by taking a more direct path.

A moon-landing mission – a manned one, too – was launched in December 1972, when Apollo 17’s Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt became the 11th and 12th men to walk on the moon.

“The space agency’s new Artemis program — named after the twin sister of Apollo in Greek mythology — looks to return astronauts to the moon’s surface within the next few years. First will be a lunar fly-around with four astronauts, possibly before the end of the year.”

[…] The Soviet Union and the U.S. racked up a string of successful moon landings in the 1960s and 70s, before putting touchdowns on pause. China joined the elite club in 2013 and India in 2023. But last year also saw landers from Russia and a private Japanese company slam into the moon. An Israeli nonprofit crashed in 2019.”

The Peregrine Mission 1 – as is almost mandatory in today’s America – raised some controversy by carrying the ashes and DNA of deceased Presidents and space enthusiasts.

“The Navajo Nation recently sought to have the launch delayed because of the human remains. saying it would be a ‘profound desecration’ of a celestial body revered by Native Americans. Thornton said the December objections came too late but promised to try to find ‘a good path forward’ with the Navajo for future missions.”

Thomas Moore, science correspondent for Sky News, reported:

This had looked like a dream start to the Peregrine Mission. But its future now hangs in the balance.

Astrobotic says the spacecraft isn’t in a ‘stable sun-pointing orientation’. That suggests its solar panels won’t be harvesting anywhere near enough solar energy and if the company can’t quickly stabilize the lunar lander it will lose power.

It’s unclear what has gone wrong. […] Astrobotic will be trying to work a solution. If it’s hardware, can they use a back-up system? If it’s software, can they upload new computer code to correct the bug?”

Read more:

The Moon Economic Wars

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