The launch of the new U.S. Moon lander went off without a hitch early Monday morning, with the brand-new Vulcan rocket lifting off flawlessly. However, the Peregrine lander that it carried into orbit has begun to experience problems, and now Astrobotic is in a race to sort the issues and get things back on track.
The launch of the Peregrine lander is momentous for quite a few reasons, chief among them the fact that it will be the first U.S. lander to touch down on the lunar surface since the Apollo program ended more than five decades ago. But, all that excitement could be for naught if the company behind the lander can’t sort out the problem that is keeping Peregrine from remaining in a steady orientation with the sun.
“The team is responding in real time as the situation unfolds and will be providing updates as data is obtained and analyzed,” the company shared on X (formerly Twitter). The exact cause of the issue is unclear, but we know that Astrobotic is working hard to figure out the problem and correct it.
At the moment, the Peregrine lander issue could prevent the solar arrays on the spacecraft from generating the power they need to operate the lander normally. However, as Peregrine isn’t slated to enter lunar orbit for another two and a half weeks, the engineers at Astrobotic have some time to diagnose and fix the problem.
It’s unfortunate that this issue has come up, too, as the launch of the Vulcan Centaur rocket was both crucial and one of the highest risks of the project, as the rocket had never been used before today. It’s the first of several new rockets that could effectively chip away at the dominance that SpaceX currently holds in the space industry and one that is sorely needed if more companies and agencies want to put spacecraft into orbit.
Peregrine is one of the most exciting space missions of 2024. If all can be sorted, the lander will deliver quite a historic spacecraft to the surface of the Moon, including two sets of human remains that have caused some controversy over the past few months. Unfortunately, Astrobotic will need to sort out this Peregrine problem before it can deem the mission a full success.