More than half a century after the last Apollo mission, the United States is poised to make a historic return to the moon.
On January 25, an unmanned lander named Peregrine, developed by American company Astrobotic, is scheduled to land on the lunar surface. According to Phys.org, this mission marks a significant milestone as it could be the first successful touchdown by a private company on the moon.
Peregrine's Mission and Challenges Peregrine's mission involves carrying NASA instruments to study the lunar environment, laying the groundwork for NASA's upcoming Artemis manned missions.
Astrobotic CEO John Thornton highlighted the challenges of achieving a lunar landing at a fraction of the traditional cost. With only about half of the moon missions being successful, Thornton acknowledged the daunting nature of this endeavor.
Launch and Landing Details The launch is set for December 24 from Florida aboard the Vulcan Centaur rocket, developed by the ULA industrial group.
The probe will take a few days to reach lunar orbit and will wait until January 25 to attempt landing, ensuring optimal light conditions at the landing site. The descent will be carried out autonomously, monitored from Astrobotic's control center.
NASA's Lunar Strategy and Commercial Partnerships This mission is part of NASA's strategy to commission U.S. companies for lunar exploration, a program known as CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services).
These fixed-price contracts aim to develop a lunar economy and provide cost-effective transport services. NASA has also signed contracts with other companies, including Firefly Aerospace, Draper, and Intuitive Machines, the latter scheduled for a SpaceX rocket launch in January.
The Artemis Program and Lunar Economy NASA's Artemis program aims to establish a base on the moon's surface.
Despite the risks and potential for some missions to fail, NASA's leadership is committed to this endeavor. The CLPS program manager, Chris Culbert, emphasized that even unsuccessful landings contribute to the commercial infrastructure necessary for a lunar economy.
This ambitious return to the moon signifies a new era in space exploration, with private companies playing a crucial role in advancing lunar science and exploration.