TechMoon mission mishap. Peregrine lander's damaged propulsion sends it crashing towards Earth

Moon mission mishap. Peregrine lander's damaged propulsion sends it crashing towards Earth

The lunar lander Peregrine will not land on the Moon. It will be destroyed by a collision with Earth.
The lunar lander Peregrine will not land on the Moon. It will be destroyed by a collision with Earth.
Images source: © Astrobotic

1:13 PM EST, January 15, 2024

On the launch day, January 8th, it transpired that the Peregrine, the first commercial lunar lander, would not conclude its mission on the moon. Despite the ground crew's efforts to control and continue the journey, a damaged propulsion system eliminated its chances for a safe landing.

Peregrine lander set to collide with Earth

In the wake of a few days of uncertainty, Astrobotic resolved not to maintain the Peregrine lander in space. Currently, the vehicle is on a collision course with Earth, positioned at a distance of approximately 205,052 miles. While it could technically be directed to continue orbiting, that won't be the case. While the lander's path will be governable, it is destined for a collision with our planet.

Despite the alarm this may cause, it's important to note that the mission's safe conclusion with an Earth collision isn't cause for concern. Astrobotic will monitor the impact, and given the Peregrine lander's small size – 6.23 feet tall and 8.20 feet wide – it won't cause much noticeable effect as it disintegrates in Earth's atmosphere.

The unsuccessful mission of the Peregrine lander

The premature ending of the Peregrine lander mission doesn't discount future commercial missions. While Astrobotic wasn't able to facilitate a lunar landing, they demonstrated control over the object deployed to space. An unexpected fuel leak occurred, but the communication systems and solar power endured a rigorous test.

Although the mission isn't a total catastrophe, it still represents a wasted opportunity, particularly for NASA. The lander was intended to transport several essential measuring instruments to the Moon, beneficial for the agency's research programs. Unfortunately, these burnt up in Earth's atmosphere, and not all even had an opportunity to undergo the ignition test.

Only those instruments that needed to function during the transport stage were activated. As a result, it was not even possible to validate the efficiency of the Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA) system. The Moon's surface was supposed to be its working environment, but it couldn't be activated while aboard the Peregrine lander during its journey through the solar system.

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