US Moon mission has no chance of soft lunar landingon January 9, 2024 at 6:22 pm

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US company Astrobotic had hoped to land its Peregrine spacecraft on the Moon next month.

Artwork: PeregrineImage source, Astrobotic

A US lunar lander has “no chance” of making a soft landing on the Moon due to a fuel leak, the company behind the mission says.

Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic said there was enough propellant to operate its Peregrine lander as a spacecraft.

The lander is expected to run out of fuel in about 40 hours, the firm said shortly after 17:00 GMT on Tuesday.

Peregrine ran into trouble almost as soon as it came off the top of its launch rocket on Monday.

“Given the propellant leak, there is, unfortunately, no chance of a soft landing on the Moon,” Astrobotic said in a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter.

“The team has updated its estimates, and we currently expect to run out of propellant in about 40 hours from now – an improvement on last night’s estimate.

“The team continues to work to find ways to extend Peregrine’s operational life.”

The 1.2-tonne lander was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Monday, with the intention of landing in late February.

But in the first few hours of its journey, engineers noticed the would-be Moon lander was struggling to keep its solar panels looking in the direction of the Sun to charge its battery.

The cause was quickly attributed to a major leak in the propulsion system that was pushing Peregrine out of alignment.

The US space agency (Nasa) had purchased capacity on the lander for five instruments to study the lunar surface environment ahead of sending astronauts there later this decade.

Astrobotic is the first of three US companies to send a lander to the Moon this year under a new private-public partnership with Nasa.

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