Astrobotic’s Peregrine is gearing up for a chance to land on the Moon, hoping to become the first commercial lunar lander to touchdown on the dusty surface of the celestial body and pave the way for other private ventures to follow.
The lunar lander will ride on board United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur, which is scheduled for liftoff on Monday, January 8, at 2:18 a.m. ET from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The historic launch will be broadcast live on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the space agency’s website, and you can also tune in through the feed below. The live feed is set to begin at 1:30 a.m. ET.
As part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative and its Artemis program, Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander is packed with government and privately-owned payloads including a host of scientific instruments belonging to the space agency. NASA’s payloads on board Peregrine include the Laser Retro-Reflector Array (LRA), which uses laser beams to accurately measure the distance between the Moon and Earth, and the Linear Energy Transfer Spectrometer (LETS), which measures radiation at the lunar surface for astronaut safety during future missions.
The upcoming mission is meant to help NASA in its quest to return humans to the Moon, and make it a sustainable place for long-term human presence. It also ushers in a new era whereby private companies create greater access to deep space destinations, providing means for government and commercial customers to deliver payloads to the Moon. Other payloads include a swarm of tiny robots from Mexico, a time capsule from Carnegie Mellon that includes images, poems, music pieces, as well as the cremated ashes and DNA of loved ones for two space memorial companies.
Peregrine is scheduled for its lunar touchdown in late February, but landing on the Moon is no easy feat. So far, only NASA, Russia, and China have successfully landed on the Moon. Attempts by other nations have not ended well; Israel’s Beresheet crashed onto the Moon’s surface in April 2019, while India’s Vikram spacecraft did the same that September 2023. In April 2023, Japan’s ispace was also hoping to become the first private company to land on the Moon, but its Hakuto-R lander crashed on the surface.
The lander is aiming for a soft landing at the Moon’s Gruithuisen Domes—a cluster of volcanic formations in the Sinus Viscositatis region (meaning “Bay of Stickiness”).
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