Peregrine plunges into South Pacific

The ill-fated Peregrine One lunar lander has re-entered Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.  

Peregrine was a lunar lander from Pittsburgh-based space exploration company Astrobotic, hoping to become the first privately built vehicle to safely land on the Moon.  

In doing so, it would have marked the first return of a US-flagged spacecraft to the lunar surface since the end of the Apollo program 52 years ago.  

But a propellant leak identified after launch scuppered those plans, with the lander unable to fuel itself for its weeks-long trajectory to achieve the landing.  

Peregrine plunged into the ocean south of Fiji at around 4.30pm US Eastern Time on Thursday (8.30am AEDT Friday) with a main engine burn followed by 23 small burns to guide the stricken vehicle to its target. 

Richard Stephenson from the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex confirmed Peregrine’s loss of signal on X (formerly Twitter). 

Astrobotic has acknowledged loss of communication from Peregrine but said it was awaiting official confirmation from government entities that its vehicle had splashed into the South Pacific Ocean.  

To salvage as much scientific data before its re-entry, NASA activated several instruments on board the spacecraft to collect data in the space environment between Earth and the Moon.  

Map showing anticipated landing area of peregrine spacecraft between fiji and new caledonia
Anticipated landing area of Peregrine spacecraft. Credit: Astrobotic

In a statement, NASA said preliminary data shows these instruments have collected information related to the space surrounding the lander in transit, including “measurements of the radiation environment and chemical compounds in the lander vicinity, a positive sign that the instruments survived the harsh conditions of space and are functioning as expected”. 

NASA and Astrobotic will hold a joint teleconference at 1pm US Eastern Time on Friday to provide a mission summary.  

The loss of Peregrine leaves the door open to Houston-based Intuitive Machines to take the mantle as the first private enterprise to land a vehicle on the Moon. Its IM-1 mission is due to launch in February. 

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