Peregrine’s Lunar Mission Faces Critical Challenge with Fuel Leak, Soft-Landing Unattainable

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Moon surface in deep bright space.

Astrobotic, the American company that recently launched a mission to land on the Moon, is facing challenges due to a fuel leak in its spacecraft.

The leak is affecting the ability to stabilize the spacecraft, and the mission’s lifespan may be limited to just a few hours. As a result, achieving a soft-landing on the lunar surface, which would have been the first for the US in half a century, is no longer possible.

Astrobotic’s main objective now is to bring the spacecraft as close to the Moon as possible before it loses power. The lander, known as Peregrine, was launched with the intention of reaching the Moon’s northern hemisphere in February.

NASA had contracted Astrobotic to study the lunar surface environment through five instruments in preparation for future manned missions. However, Peregrine encountered issues soon after its launch, with engineers identifying a major leak in its propulsion system that caused misalignment. To maintain the correct orientation, the lander’s thrusters are running on overtime, utilizing more of the diminishing fuel supply. Astrobotic estimates that the craft has about a day’s worth of propellant left before it starts tumbling. Once this happens, the spacecraft will lose power rapidly as its solar panels will no longer collect sunlight.

Astrobotic is the first of three US companies participating in a private-public partnership with NASA to send a lander to the Moon this year. The agency hopes this collaboration will bring more innovation and cost reduction to future missions. While NASA is prepared for the possibility of mission failures, it remains optimistic that the partnership will ultimately yield successful missions.

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