Just hours after taking off on Monday, a private company’s spacecraft had a “critical” fuel leak, seemingly ending the first American lunar landing attempt in over half a century.
As a dedicated crew evaluated the situation around what was referred to as “a breakdown in the propulsion system,” Astrobotic Technology, located near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, could turn the lander such that its solar panels would face the sun, allowing it to charge its battery. Unfortunately, the vital loss of fuel quickly became apparent, further casting doubt on the lunar mission scheduled for February 23.
In a statement released late Monday, the corporation confirmed that the leak was ongoing and predicted that the lander would begin to lose solar power in 42 hours.
About seven hours after Monday’s predawn launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, the problem was detected. The Vulcan rocket from the United Launch Alliance carried Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander on its circuitous journey to the moon. The spacecraft’s capacity to land gently on the moon is “threatened,” according to the corporation, due to an issue with the propulsion system. During the lunar fall and the cruise, the lander’s engines and thrusters will be needed for maneuvering.
With other contracts on the way, Astrobotic has already earned $108 million from NASA for the Peregrine lander. Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration Joel Kearns of NASA pointed out an additional risk involved with utilizing private enterprises to bring supplies to the moon, even though it will be cheaper and faster than the typical government approach.
In December 1972, the United States of America conducted its final moon landing mission. The goal of the recently launched Artemis program by the space agency is to send humans back to the moon’s surface soon. A lander developed by Intuitive Machines will be launched by SpaceX next month. The 6-foot-tall (1.9-meter-tall) Peregrine lander was loaded with a piece of rock from Mount Everest, miniature cars from Mexico, and the remains and DNA of space enthusiasts who have passed away, such as science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke and “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, as Astrobotic cultivated its own freight business.