The Peregrine Spacecraft: A Fiery End to Lunar Ambitions

So, here’s the lowdown on the Peregrine spacecraft, the one that was supposed to make the first US moon landing in over 50 years. Spoiler alert: it’s not going as planned.

Heading Back to Earth in Flames

Last week, the Peregrine spacecraft took off, all set to land on the moon. Fast forward to now, and it’s on its way back to Earth, and not in the way anyone hoped for. Why? Well, there was a nasty fuel leak that crushed its dreams of a lunar touchdown.

This hiccup is a bit of a downer for NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. They rope in private companies, like Astrobotic Technology (the brains behind Peregrine), to explore the lunar surface and gear up for sending humans back to the moon later on.

Critical Fuel Leak and the Decision to Let It Burn

Astrobotic spilled the beans on Sunday, saying they decided to let Peregrine disintegrate midair as it hurtles back to Earth. Why? A fuel leak left it without enough juice to pull off the moon landing, and it’s safer to let it burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. No safety risks, they promise.

The decision to pull the plug wasn’t easy. They thought the spacecraft could keep chugging along for a few more weeks, but the wonky propulsion system had other ideas. So, for the sake of responsibility and safety, they’re letting Peregrine go out in a blaze of glory.

What Went Wrong on the Way to the Moon

Peregrine’s journey to the moon was like a rollercoaster with a few too many loops. An “anomaly” messed up its solar-powered battery, pointing it away from the sun. Then, the fuel leak happened, leaving the spacecraft short on propellant. No gentle lunar surface touch for Peregrine.

Astrobotic and NASA are gearing up for a news conference on Thursday to spill more details about the whole mission fiasco.

Weighing Options: Trash in Space or Lunar Crash?

Astrobotic had to decide what to do with Peregrine. One option was letting it roam the cosmos, lost in space forever. But nope, that’s risky. Imagine a damaged spacecraft smashing into other stuff up there—definitely not cool.

Another option was a dramatic crash-landing on the moon. Many have done it before, intentionally or not. But Astrobotic nixed that idea too, thinking about the “risk that our damaged spacecraft could cause a problem.”

So, Earth it is for Peregrine. When it reenters, it’s going out in style, smashing into Earth’s atmosphere at top speed. Bye-bye, Peregrine.

Critical Errors and Near Misses

If Peregrine had nailed the moon landing, it would’ve been the first US spacecraft to pull it off since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. But just hours after liftoff, the dream was shattered. No soft landing for Peregrine.

They tried to salvage the situation, making Peregrine work as a satellite, but the fuel leak had other plans. The spacecraft limped along, controlled by its tiny thrusters. They even managed a brief power-up of the main engines, but thanks to the leak, no long, controlled burns were possible.

As of Monday, Peregrine was about 218,000 miles from Earth, just hanging out, waiting for its grand finale.