The Astrobotic company’s lander has managed to take pictures and use scientific equipment, despite facing hurdles on its journey to the moon. Continuous fuel loss due to an initial explosion has been a major setback. However, the company announced on Tuesday that while a controlled landing is not possible, a harder landing on the moon’s surface hasn’t been ruled out.
The Peregrine robot remains stable and operational, with diminishing fuel loss over time. “Peregrine has been operational in space for more than four days now,” the company announced on a messaging service on Friday. They remain optimistic about extending the robot’s lifespan.
Simultaneously, American, German, and Mexican space administrations have been able to utilize the scientific equipment intended for use on the moon. Measurements and operations from NASA-provided scientific instruments will offer valuable experience and knowledge for future lunar missions, according to Joel Kearns, NASA’s Assistant Administrator for Research Operations.
Kearns’ comments refer to NASA’s experimental Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, under which Astrobotic was paid over a hundred million dollars to provide the Peregrine hardware. This was part of NASA’s strategy to reduce its own costs.
Astrobotic is the third private company to fail in a government bid, following an Israeli non-profit organization and a Japanese company. However, a new opportunity awaits in November when the company’s Griffin lander is scheduled to carry NASA’s Viper rover to the Moon’s south pole.
The intended destination of Peregrine has not been disclosed by the Pittsburgh-based company, leading to speculation amongst space enthusiasts. Amateur astronomer Tony Dunn used NASA data to calculate the current course of Astrobotic’s ship, suggesting it would hit the Moon on January 23rd. However, the actual course may differ due to the leaking fuel.
Astrobotic also has the option to purposefully redirect Peregrine and send it further into space. A hard landing on the moon could be a pleasant outcome for some of Astrobotic’s customers since the lander will carry the ashes and DNA of several people to the moon. However, this has sparked controversy among the Navajos, who view it as a desecration of an important celestial body.
According to professor Justin Walsh of Chapman University, humans have left approximately 180 tons of material on the moon since the first Soviet craft crash in 1959.