Peregrine’s Unintended Experiment: How a Doomed Moon Mission Unlocks New Space Science

Astrobotic Peregrine Lunar Lander in Space

An image captured in space from Peregrine’s journey. The curved sliver in the upper right corner is Earth. The camera that took this image is located on the bottom of one of Peregrine’s payload decks. Just left of center in the image is the DHL MoonBox payload covered in MLI, which contains hundreds of thousands of messages from the people of Earth. Visible to the right of MoonBox and near the bottom center of the photo is Astroscale’s Pocari Sweat Lunar Dream Time Capsule – this was the first payload under contract with Astrobotic and contains messages from children around the world. The bottom center right of the image shows one of Peregrine’s landing legs obscured by the electrical interface where we were connected with the launch vehicle. Credit: Astrobotic

NASA’s Peregrine lander, despite a launch setback, is conducting extended scientific research in cislunar space, gathering crucial data for future lunar missions.

NASA’s CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative aims to deliver science and technology to the Moon to advance our capabilities in lunar exploration. Shortly after launch, Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander experienced a failure in the propulsion system, causing a critical loss of propellant. Astrobotic announced due to the failure, Peregrine will not achieve a soft lunar landing for this mission.

Efforts by the Astrobotic team have recovered the spacecraft and allowed Peregrine to remain operationally stable collecting data about the interplanetary environment. All NASA payloads that can power on have received power and are effectively gathering data, although interpreting the results will require some time.

Extended Science in Cislunar Space

Both Astrobotic and NASA are taking advantage of this flight time by extending the science of Peregrine’s Mission One into cislunar space. NASA payloads including, NSS (Neutron Spectrometer System), LETS (Linear Energy Transfer Spectrometer), PITMS (Peregrine Ion Trap Mass Spectrometer), and NIRVSS (Near Infrared Volatile Spectrometer System) have successfully powered on while the spacecraft has been operationally stable.

Since the LRA (Laser Retroreflector Array) instrument is a passive experiment that can only be conducted on the lunar surface, it cannot conduct any operations in transit.

Astrobotic Peregrine Lunar Lander

Peregrine is Astrobotic’s small-class lunar lander, shown on the Moon in this illustration. Due to a failure in the propulsion system, it will not be able to make a soft landing on the Moon for this mission. Credit: Astrobotic Technology

Innovative Technologies and Data Collection

A novel NASA space technology guidance and navigation sensor, which Astrobotic incorporated as a Peregrine lander component, NDL (Navigation Doppler Lidar), has also been successfully powered on.

“Measurements and operations of the NASA-provided science instruments on board will provide valuable experience, technical knowledge, and scientific data to future CLPS lunar deliveries,” said Joel Kearns, deputy associate administrator for exploration with NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Some of the NASA-provided payloads aboard Peregrine were already scheduled for future lunar flights. The team is taking this opportunity to collect as much science data as possible and to further characterize the performance and functionality of the science instruments while the spacecraft follows its current trajectory. Astrobotic is striving to extend Peregrine’s mission, allowing for additional data collection for NASA’s and other customers’ payloads.

Two of the payloads, NSS and LETS, are making measurements of the radiation environment in interplanetary space around the Earth and the Moon. The two instruments are measuring different components of the radiation spectrum, which provide complementary insights into the galactic cosmic ray activity and space weather resulting from solar activity. This data helps characterize the interplanetary radiation environment for humans and electronics.

Additional updates will be shared as they become available.

2 Comments on "Peregrine’s Unintended Experiment: How a Doomed Moon Mission Unlocks New Space Science"

  1. What the ef, isn’t it going to crash to earth? Plus in the way of a solar flare yesterday? Keep talking it up like its something though so you can secure future missions. While people starve and freeze to death and new york falls into the sea. Thank you for being here to explain all your shinanigans in space for us. I AM SURE the populations of the world have already purchased their new 2024 space suits with ai tech and are standing by waiting to board. Oh wait i guess they should bring shovels too, cause of exploration but mostly for exploitation. Please remember to say your prayers.

  2. The mission may not be successful in reporting science measurements from the surface of the moon, but the measurements of radiation around the earth and moon Cislunar Space will be invaluable data for the human crew of the Artemis II extended flight path around the moon.

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