A US space mission with the aim of the first successful commercial landing on the moon initially appears to have failed. The Pittsburgh company Astrobotic said there was a malfunction shortly after launch on Monday. Initially, the start went as planned and the systems worked as expected. "Unfortunately, there was a disruption that prevented Astrobotic from assuming a stable position facing the sun."
According to initial investigations, this was probably due to a fault in the drive system, it was said shortly afterwards. If this is confirmed, the planned soft landing on the moon would also be at risk. In addition, the charge on the battery temporarily reached a low level until it was possible to orient the capsule's position towards the sun and charge the battery again.
Shortly afterwards, however, Astrobotic announced that fuel now appeared to be leaking. "The team is trying to stabilize the loss, but given the situation, our priority has been to maximize the scientific data we can collect. We are currently analyzing what alternative mission profiles would be possible at this time."
“Every success and every setback are opportunities to learn and grow,” said NASA manager Joel Kearns. "We will use this lesson to advance our lunar exploration, exploration and commercial development efforts."
It was supposed to be the first US moon landing in 50 years
The unmanned lander “Peregrine” was launched from the Cape Canaveral spaceport on Monday morning aboard a “Vulcan Centaur” rocket from the manufacturer ULA. The capsule was supposed to land on Earth's satellite at the end of February in an area called Sinus Viscositatis (Bay of Stickiness) and complete the first - unmanned - US moon landing since the Apollo mission over 50 years ago.
In April 2023, a Japanese company failed in a similar mission, the company Ispace citing an incorrect height calculation of the lander during the landing attempt.
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 Earth's companions with several devices on the journey. 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.
NASA wants to send astronauts to the moon again in 2025
As with the ISS space station, 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.
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, "Artemis 3" - at least according to the current plan - will see astronauts 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.