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NASA's lunar module that was to make history now faces a terrible demise: what is known about it

Dmytro IvancheskulNews
Peregrine One was supposed to go down in history as the first vehicle of a private company to land on the Moon. Source: NASA

The doomed Peregrine One lunar module will most likely burn up in the Earth's atmosphere. Its original mission was to land on the moon but a fuel leak discovered shortly after takeoff on January 8 made this goal unattainable.

This is stated by Astrobotic, a private company that developed the vehicle on behalf of NASA. Peregrine is currently traveling in the space between the Moon and the Earth.

After a successful launch on January 8, the world watched the first-ever private U.S. lunar landing mission. But the triumph was short-lived. Just after leaving the Earth's atmosphere, the lander experienced problems that prevented it from pointing its solar panels toward the sun.

When it became clear that the device was unable to gain enough energy, its developers recognized that the best they could hope for was a hard landing on the Moon. But in the end, this was not achieved either as a significant fuel leak occurred.

"For the first time, we conducted a test run of one of the main engines. We achieved a 200-millisecond burn and obtained data indicating that Peregrine may have main engine propulsion capability," the team wrote in a recent post.

However, the abnormal fuel-to-oxidizer ratio "went far beyond" the normal operation of the main engines, so long-term controlled combustion is simply impossible.

Astrobotic now believes that the spacecraft's course will eventually lead it into the Earth's atmosphere, where it will meet its fiery demise.

Although Peregrine One failed to accomplish its lunar mission, it still managed to perform some scientific research that is important to scientists. During a week in space, the device was able to conduct four experiments that were planned by NASA. Thus, scientists received new data on the space environment between the Earth and the Moon.

Peregrine One is currently at a distance of 376,500 kilometers from Earth. Astrobotic is working with NASA to return the spacecraft for a controlled reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. The company emphasizes that burning it in the Earth's atmosphere and controlling its trajectory is better than leaving potential debris that could reach the Earth uncontrollably or cause problems for other spacecraft.

"Although we believe the spacecraft could have operated for several more weeks and could potentially have raised its orbit to miss the Earth, we must take into account the anomalous state of the propulsion system and use the onboard capabilities of the spacecraft to complete the mission responsibly and safely," Astrobitc said.

The company also noted that the spacecraft's reentry will not pose a threat to human safety, and it will burn up in the Earth's atmosphere.

According to Cosmos, NASA is increasingly contracting with private companies to transport its scientific missions into space.

NASA intended to use the Peregrine flight to test several pieces of scientific equipment before full operation in future lunar missions. These are the instruments for the next planned Astrobotic project, Griffin. This spacecraft was supposed to deliver NASA's VIPER lunar rover to the Earth's satellite to conduct research on traces of ice and other materials.

In addition, Peregrine carried several memorabilia and "space memorials," including DNA from deceased US presidents and members of the Star Trek cast.

Although Astrobotic failed to make history as the first private company to land on the moon, another American competitor may still take its place. In February, Intuitive Machines is scheduled to launch its IM-1 spacecraft, which will also carry a payload of instruments from NASA and other private space companies.

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