US Moon mission has 'no chance' of soft landing due to fuel leak

The Peregrine 1 lander will get as close to lunar surface as possible before power is lost

Vulcan rocket launches US private Moon mission

Vulcan rocket launches US private Moon mission
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The first American Moon landing attempt since the Apollo era has failed because of a propellant leak on the vehicle that will make it impossible for a soft landing on the lunar surface.

Astrobotic successfully launched its Peregrine 1 lander on the Vulcan Centaur rocket on Monday.

However, the lander encountered a technical fault shortly after separation, with the company saying it may have been due to a trapped valve that caused a fuel tank to rupture and propellant to leak.

“Given the propellant leak, there is, unfortunately, no chance of a soft landing on the Moon,” Astrobotic said.

“However, we do still have enough propellant to continue to operate the vehicle as a spacecraft.”

As of Monday night, the lander was expected to run out of fuel in 40 hours. The company said it aimed to continue as close to the Moon as possible before it lost power.

Astrobotic was contracted by Nasa to deliver to a region called Ocean of Storms – the largest dark spot on the Moon.

Had it successfully landed, Peregrine 1 would have used Nasa technology to send back data on the geological outlook of the lunar surface.

The company is developing its second lunar lander, called Griffin which will use data from the Peregrine 1 mission to improve the next vehicle.

Astrobotic was the third company to launch a mission to the Moon.

Israel's SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries attempted a soft landing in 2019 but crash-landed due to an engine failure.

Japan's ispace was hoping its Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander, which was carrying the UAE's Rashid rover, would soft land in April last year, but it also crash-landed.

Its software had a glitch, which caused the craft to miscalculate its altitude moments before a landing was expected.

India's space agency Isro had a failed landing in 2019, but its Vikram lander carried out a successful touchdown in 2023.

Russia's Luna-25 craft, its first mission in 50 years, failed to land in August.

Japan's space agency, Jaxa, launched its Moon Sniper mission in September, with a landing attempt expected in 2024.

Updated: January 10, 2024, 8:49 AM