Washington (AFP) – More than 50 years after the last Apollo mission, the United States will once again attempt to land a spacecraft on the Moon on January 25, said the head of what could be the first private company to successfully land on the lunar surface. .
Published on: 11/30/2023 – 03:41
The lander, named Peregrine, will have no one on board. It was developed by US company Astrobotic, whose CEO John Thornton said it would carry NASA instruments to study the lunar environment in preparation for NASA’s Artemis manned missions.
Several years ago, NASA chose to commission American companies to send scientific experiments and technology to the Moon – a program called CLPS.
These fixed-price contracts should make it possible to develop a lunar economy and provide transport services at lower costs.
“One of the big challenges of what we’re attempting here is to attempt a launch and landing on the surface of the Moon for a fraction of what it would otherwise cost,” Thornton said Wednesday during a press briefing at his company’s base in Pittsburgh.
“Only about half of the missions carried out on the surface of the Moon have been successful,” he said.
“So it’s certainly a big challenge.” I’m going to be both terrified and thrilled every step of this. »
Takeoff is scheduled for December 24 from Florida aboard the inaugural flight of the new rocket from the industrial group ULA, called Vulcan Centaur.
The probe will then take “a few days” to reach lunar orbit, but will have to wait until Jan. 25 before attempting to land, so that lighting conditions at the target location are good, Thornton said.
The descent will be carried out autonomously, without human intervention, but will be monitored from the company’s control center.
In the spring, the Japanese start-up ispace had already attempted to become the first private company to land on the Moon, but the mission ended in a crash. Israel also suffered a setback in 2019. Only four countries have successfully landed on the Moon: the United States, Russia, China and, most recently, India.
In addition to Astrobotic, NASA has signed contracts with other companies, such as Firefly Aerospace, Draper and Intuitive Machines.
The latter is due to take off aboard a SpaceX rocket in January.
“NASA leadership is aware of the risks and has accepted that some of these missions could fail,” said Chris Culbert, CLPS program manager.
“But even if each landing fails, CLPS has already impacted the commercial infrastructure needed to establish a lunar economy,” he said.
With its Artemis program, NASA wants to establish a base on the surface of the Moon.
© 2023 AFP