A space defeat for the United States and a missed opportunity for Mexico

Updated 09/01/2023 at 12:20 PM: Report added Report No. 7 For the mission, Astrobotic uncovers new problems with the ship and its mission objectives

Astrobotic's Peregrine module flight, which marked NASA's return to the moon after more than 50 years and the maiden flight of a mission from Mexico and UNAM to the satellite, has gone off as planned. However, after only a few hours the flight became uncertain, and finally In failing to reach the moon.

The problems with the Peregrine unit started gradually first With anomalies Which prevented navigationAnd pointing himself steadily towards the sun To get that energy Has been chosen It was caused by a malfunction in the propulsion system, which jeopardized the ship's ability to perform “Soft landing” on the moon.

Although the vessel position can be corrected using An improvised maneuver to recharge their batteriesIt was also discovered that the origin of the problem is due to A Payment system failurewhich was causing Critical fuel loss.

Astrobotic also indicated that it was seeking to stabilize the leak, and that was its priority Maximizing science and data It could be captured to the point that the mission team was Evaluate possible alternative mission profilesThat is, searching for how to take advantage of available resources to conduct the greatest amount of research.

Little by little losing control

Your update 6, published at 8 p.m. Central Mexican time, January 8, was strong. Derived from fuel leakage, Peregrine He was unable to remain stable Her motives were underpowered.

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Shaheen unitA Peregrine module installed on a Vulcan rocket before liftoff

As a result, Astrobotic said, if the thrusters can keep working, the spacecraft is expected to continue pointing safely toward the sun. For about another 40 hoursThis is until noon on Wednesday, January 10.

Despite the problems, the essence of the mission remains, as Astrobotic asserts, the goal was Get Peregrine as close to the Moon as possible Before it loses the ability to keep the ship pointed toward the sun, eventually losing power due to its inability to recharge its batteries.

Ending chances of reaching the moon

In the Update 7 On Peregrine Mission One, Astrobotic was more optimistic, because although it was accepted that due to the fuel leak There was no possibility of landing on the moonThe ship still had enough fuel to operate as a spaceship, and it stopped at 11 a.m. CST, Tuesday, January 9.

Furthermore, Astrobotic also said that it is expected to run out of propellant after 40 hours (i.e. per hour 3 a.m. on Thursday, January 11, 2024), which is an improvement over previous estimates.

Naturally, the company agreed to work on new forms of… Extending the operational life of the shipConducting tests and checks on the cargo, and receivingValuable data” and spaceflight operational verification of components and software for the next lunar landing attempt with the Griffin mission.

The importance of the Shaheen mission

Unlike missions undertaken by NASA or any other space agency, Peregrine's mission, aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan rocket, was a milestone. A new stage of private space exploration to the moon.

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The project, led by Astrobotic, made it possible to obtain space within the unit to be able to Launch multiple exploration missions for different agentsbetween them Various NASA payloads As a radiation detector and spectrometer to search for evidence of ice beneath the surface of the satellite.

Shaheen missionsShaheen missionsSome of the projects that will also travel on board Peregrine

In the agency's case, it marked its return to the Moon after more than 50 years, not as one of its missions nor as part of Artemis, but In a commercial space project.

Among these customers was also the COLMENA project, a project carried out by UNAM that aimed to take it to the Moon. Five small robots that can analyze regolith (lunar dust) to produce oxygen and minerals, but they will also try and try to connect together to create a solar panel and generate power.

However, since landing on the Moon is no longer an option, the Colmena mission will not be able to do so. It is being designed to explore the surface of the satellite,Although all technical development for miniaturization of robotic systems and training of students at the university remains knowledge for UNAM.

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