A US mission with the aim of the first successful commercial landing on the moon has set off for the Earth's satellite. On Monday morning, the ULA “Vulcan Centaur” rocket with the “Peregrine” lander on board lifted off from the Cape Canaveral spaceport.
The unmanned capsule from Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic is scheduled to land in an area called Sinus Viscositatis (Bay of Stickiness) on February 23 (ET). It would be the first - albeit unmanned - US moon landing since the Apollo missions over 50 years ago.
Success is by no means guaranteed: Last April, a Japanese company failed in a similar mission. The company ispace gave the reason for this being an incorrect height calculation of the lander. Shortly after the targeted landing time of "Hakuto-R" on the moon, ispace no longer received any data from the lander. The company assumes that he fell to the lunar surface in free fall.
If successful, it would have been the world's first private moon landing; now follows the second such attempt by a company. Private companies have been wanting to land on the moon and undertake other space projects for years, including billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX. As with the ISS space station, the US space agency NASA is working increasingly closely with commercial providers on lunar projects because this has proven to be an efficient and ultimately cost-saving way. Conversely, the business model of private companies has so far often depended on government clients.
With the "Peregrine Mission 1" private individuals were able to buy space to transport material to the moon in the lander, which is 1.9 meters high and has a diameter of 2.5 meters. The US space agency Nasa also wants to prepare its own expeditions to the moon, which is around 380,000 kilometers from Earth, with several devices on the trip.
NASA would like to examine, among other things, the lunar exosphere during the mission. In addition, thermal properties and the hydrogen content of the material on the lunar surface (regolith) will be investigated. It is also planned to test advanced solar systems in this lunar collaboration between NASA and a private company.
The investigations would help “to better prepare us to send manned missions back to the moon,” NASA scientist Paul Niles explained before the launch. As part of the “Artemis” program, NASA currently wants to orbit the moon with three men and one woman on the ten-day “Artemis 2” mission at the end of 2024. In 2025, on “Artemis 3” – at least according to the current plan – astronauts will land on the moon again after more than half a century, including a woman and a non-white person for the first time. The long-term goal of "Artemis" is to establish a permanent lunar base as a basis for missions to Mars.
It is important for the US space agency to have help from private space companies. "We don't know how many of these early tests will be successful. But I can tell you that these American companies are technically detail-oriented. They are very business-minded. They are resourceful and motivated," NASA program chief Chris Culbert praised Astrobotic and other partners . The companies are highly motivated to conquer the moon as a business area.
In addition to the “Peregrin” mission, NASA is planning further collaborations as part of its CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative to bring material to the moon. She places a kind of delivery order with a company like Astrobotic. “Think of the Peregrine spacecraft as a space delivery vehicle,” writes the private space company. “Just as shipping companies like DHL send packages around the world, Astrobotic sends items to the moon.” According to the company, “Peregrine” carries supplies from governments, companies, universities and NASA from seven different countries.
A shipment from private partners in "Peregrine" is a thorn in the side of at least some native people in the USA: human and animal ashes are supposed to end up on the moon as a special final resting place through the mission. According to US media reports, the President of the Navajo Nation in the state of Arizona, Buu Nygren, wrote a letter of complaint to NASA: The mission was desecrating the moon, which is considered sacred in their culture, they said.