A private lunar lander which launched from the US this morning has suffered an “anomaly” – with experts trying to resolve the issue.
Peregrine Mission-1 – which took off at 7.18am UK time – aimed to become the first US spacecraft due to land on the moon’s surface since Apollo 17 in 1972 and appeared to lift off into space as planned.
But, American company Astrobotic, in control of the launch, said an “anomaly” has since occurred.
They said: “After successfully separating from United Launce Alliance’s Vulcan rocket, Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander began receiving telemetry via the NASA Deep Space Network.
“Astrobotic-built avionics systems, including the primary command and data handling unit, as well as the thermal, propulsion, and power controllers, all powered on and performed as expected.
“After successful propulsion systems activation, Peregrine entered a safe operational state.
“Unfortunately, an anomaly then occurred, which prevented Astrobotic from achieving a stable sun-pointing orientation. The team is responding in real time as the situation unfolds and will be providing updates as more data is obtained and analysed.”
It’s unclear what has gone wrong
This had looked like a dream start to the Peregrine Mission.
But its future now hangs in the balance.
Astrobotic says the spacecraft isn’t in a “stable sun-pointing orientation”.
That suggests its solar panels won’t be harvesting anywhere near enough solar energy and if the company can’t quickly stabilise the lunar lander it will lose power.
It’s unclear what has gone wrong.
Everything seemed to be working perfectly. When mission controllers woke up the spacecraft, after it was released from the launch rocket, everything performed as expected.
It’s possible that there is a problem with the sensors the spacecraft uses to orientate its position using the sun and stars. Or perhaps there is a software glitch.
Astrobotic will be trying to work a solution. If it’s hardware, can they use a back-up system? If it’s software, can they upload new computer code to correct the bug?
They’ll be doing everything they can to save the mission.
The lunar lander was carrying the remains of several Star Trek cast members and the DNA of former US president John F Kennedy – as well as scientific instruments.
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