The head of what might be the first private firm to safely land on the moon announced that the United States will attempt to land a craft on the moon again on January 25, more than 50 years after the final Apollo mission.
There will be no one on board the lander, Peregrine. It was created by the American business Astrobotic, whose CEO, John Thornton, stated that the spacecraft will be equipped with NASA equipment to investigate the lunar surface ahead of NASA’s human Artemis missions.
NASA decided a few years ago to launch the CLPS program, which involves US corporations sending scientific equipment and experiments to the Moon.
These fixed-price agreements ought to facilitate the growth of a lunar economy and minimize the cost of transportation services.
At a news conference held on Wednesday at his company’s Pittsburgh headquarters, Thornton stated, “One of the big challenges of what we’re attempting here is attempting a launch and landing on the surface Moon for a fraction of what it would otherwise cost.”
“Only about half of the missions that have gone to the surface of the Moon have been successful,” he stated.
“So it’s certainly a daunting challenge. I’m going to be terrified and thrilled all at once at every stage of this.”
The first launch of the new rocket from the ULA industrial group, called Vulcan Centaur, is set to depart Florida on December 24.
After entering lunar orbit, the probe will take “a few days” to return, but Thornton added that in order to ensure that the lighting at the intended landing site is ideal, a landing attempt cannot be made until January 25.
Without human assistance, the fall will be carried out independently, but it will be watched over from the company’s control center.
The Japanese start-up ispace had already made an attempt to land on the moon as the first private firm in the spring, but the mission was unsuccessful. In 2019, Israel experienced a setback as well. Only four nations—the US, Russia, China, and, most recently, India—have made successful moon landings.
NASA has agreements in place with Firefly Aerospace, Draper, and Intuitive Machines in addition to Astrobotic.
The latter is scheduled to launch in January atop a SpaceX rocket.
According to Chris Culbert, the CLPS program manager, “NASA leadership is aware of the risks and has accepted that some of these missions might not succeed.”
“But even if every landing isn’t successful, CLPS already had an impact on the commercial infrastructure needed to establish a lunar economy,” he stated.
NASA intends to build a base on the moon with the Artemis program.