The Apollo project ended in 1972, and now, 52 years later, the United States is gearing up for its yet another moon mission.
The lunar lander called Peregrine Mission One, also referred to as Peregrine Moon Lander, is set to blast off on January 8 with an expected landing on the moon by February 23. Before heading straight for the moon, the lander will first complete one revolution around the earth.
The spacecraft is built by Astrobotic Technology, a private US company, which was selected through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services to send small robotic landers to the moon’s south polar region with the aim of collecting lunar resources.
Astrobotic was declared eligible by NASA to deliver science and technology payloads to the moon. The lander is set to carry 15 commercial payloads as well as five NASA-sponsored payloads.
Not all the payloads on the lander are scientific. Some of them include time capsules from various countries – the US, Japan, Argentina and even cremated remains of humans including the ashes of of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry as part of a space burial initiative by the company Celestis.
The total mass capacity for Mission One is 90kg. There is an expected Mission Two and Mission Three, with a payload capacity of 175kg and 265kg, respectively.
Till date, no private company-built spacecraft has been able to achieve a soft-landing on the moon. The Peregrine will sit atop of United Launch Alliance’s new rocket, Vulcan, and although the rocket has never lifted off before, the company has a history of rockets with 100% mission success rate.
Peregrine is set to land on the part of the moon they call, “Bay of Stickiness”.
According to their website, NASA aims, with Peregrine Mission One, to “locate water molecules on the moon, measure radiation and gases around the lander, and evaluate the lunar exosphere (the thin layer of gases on the moon’s surface)”
The launch is set for 2.18 am EST (12.48pm IST) from Cape Canaveral, Florida.