Peregrine lander: Private US Moon mission runs into trouble

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The private US Moon mission launched on Monday has run into technical problems.

The Astrobotic company behind the project says its Peregrine spacecraft has experienced an “anomaly” that has stopped it from pointing its solar panels stably at the Sun.

Without the ability to charge batteries and maintain a power supply, the mission won’t be able to proceed.

Astrobotic said engineers were working on the issue and will provide updates when it has more information.

The 1.2-tonne lander was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a Vulcan rocket.

It is aiming to become the first American mission in half a century to make a soft landing on the Moon – first commercial endeavour to do so.

The US space agency has purchased capacity on the lander for five instruments to study the lunar environment ahead of sending astronauts later this decade.

Peregrine lander

ASTROBOTIC

Astrobotic gave an update on the mission seven hours after lift-off.

It said everything appeared to be going well: communications had been established with Peregrine and all its systems had been powered up and were performing as designed.

“Unfortunately, an anomaly then occurred, which prevented Astrobotic from achieving a stable Sun-pointing orientation. The team is responding in real time as the situation unfolds and will be providing updates as more data is obtained and analysed,” the company’s statement read.

It is not unusual for spacecraft to experience technical hitches and Astrobotic engineers will have rehearsed many times how to respond to a variety fault scenarios. The spacecraft itself will also have been programmed to protect itself during such events, prioritising power and communications back to Earth.

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