Early Monday morning, after an iconic launch aboard a Vulcan Centaur, Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander suffered from some problems. Now, it seems those problems will win out, as the company has shared news that Peregrine likely won’t make it to the Moon due to a fuel leak.
Update as of 1/10 at 11:34 a.m. EST: Astrobotic has shared new details about Peregrine’s ongoing struggle to make it to the Moon. According to the latest info from the company, Peregrine has been in operation over 55 hours in space, and is 80 percent of the way to lunar distance.
The team says that the Peregrine fuel leak is still a problem as the spacecraft continues to leak propellant into space. However, the team working around the clock to generate options to extend the spacecraft’s life in space. As of 11 a.m. EST on Wednesday, January 10, the company estimates Peregrine will run out of propellant in 35 hours, a small improvement to the estimates released on Tuesday.
The team shared an update Monday around three in the afternoon, stating that the camera aboard Peregrine had captured images of the damaged spacecraft. This damage appears to have caused some issues with the propulsion system, which has caused Peregrine to leak fuel into space.
That leak will cost the spacecraft dearly, too, as Astrobotic says that Peregrine is fully charged at the moment but that it will not reach its destination on the Moon’s surface. Instead, the team plans to take the time it has to test different things and complete as many payload and spacecraft operations as they can.
In another update shared later Monday night, Astrobotic shared that Peregrine likely only had 40 more hours of power before it dropped from its stable sun-pointing state. When that happens, the spacecraft will be lost to whatever path it is on, along with many of the payloads that it has on board.
Peregrine’s fuel leak will cost the company dearly, as the mission was set to be the historic first U.S. lander since the Apollo missions ended over fifty years ago. Not only that, but the lander had tons of scientific and nonscientific payloads aboard, including human remains and ashes from famous stars like Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, and actors from the show.
Some of those ashes are part of a payload planned to be released before the lander made it to the Moon, and it’s likely that the launch will continue as planned. Exactly what Astrobotic plans to do with Peregrine after its fuel expires is unclear at the moment. It seems we’ll have to wait to put a U.S. lander on the Moon sometime down the line.