Star Trek Moon Lander Is In Scary Trouble

By Charlene Badasie | Updated

space tourism

Astrobotic’s ambitious lunar mission has encountered problems just hours after its historic liftoff from Cape Canaveral with a six-foot Peregrine lander, carrying the DNA of Star Trek‘s cast and JFK, in tow. The mission, dubbed Peregrine Mission One, aims to soft-land on the Moon in February but has been hit by a propulsion anomaly that has jeopardized the spacecraft’s ability to charge its solar panels.

Shortly after launch, the lander carrying the DNA of JFK and Star Trek actors began experiencing a dangerous anomoly that could hinder it’s ability to reach the Moon.

Riding atop the Vulcan Centaur rocket, the Peregrine Moon lander made its maiden flight at 2:18 a.m. ET on January 8. However, approximately 50 minutes into the mission, Peregrine could not achieve a stable Sun-pointing orientation. Astrobotic revealed that the anomaly may threaten the spacecraft’s planned soft landing on the Moon.

Unable to receive power, the Peregrine Moon lander’s battery is reaching critically low levels. To address the problem before a communication blackout, the team adjusted the spacecraft’s solar panels towards the Sun. The maneuver was executed just before losing contact with Peregrine. Further updates on the spacecraft’s status are anticipated once it re-establishes a connection with the ground station.

The Peregrine Moon lander carries a payload of 24 items, including 11 from NASA, as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. NASA’s payloads include instruments like the Laser Retro-Reflector Array (LRA) and the Linear Energy Transfer Spectrometer (LETS), which are crucial for lunar surface measurements and astronaut safety during future missions.

nichelle nichols star trek
The remains of Nichelle Nichols are on board the Peregrine Moon lander

It carries the remains and DNA of Star Trek actors, including James Doohan, DeForest Kelley and Nichelle Nichols.

Additional items on board the Peregrine Moon lander include a group of small robots from Mexico and a time capsule from Carnegie Mellon. The capsule contains various items such as images, poems, and music pieces. Memorial companies Celestis and Elysium Space have included DNA (like hair samples) and the cremated remains of over 200 individuals as part of a space memorial mission.

An update from Astrobotic at 12:54 p.m. ET provided some relief as communication with the Peregrine Moon lander had been re-established. The team successfully reoriented its solar panels towards the Sun, allowing the battery to charge. However, at 2:07 p.m. ET, Astrobotic reported a propulsion system failure leading to a significant loss of fuel.

The team is currently working to stabilize the Peregrine Moon lander, analyzing the data to understand the cause of the propulsion system failure. Astrobotic is also brainstorming alternative mission profiles for the Peregrine lander as scientists attempt to salvage the project and explore different approaches to achieve some objectives.

Peregrine’s mission is critical to NASA’s initiative to take humans back to the Moon and establish a sustainable presence. It also signifies a new era for private companies gaining increased access to the lunar surface.

Additional items on board the Peregrine Moon lander include a group of small robots from Mexico and a time capsule from Carnegie Mellon.

Moreover, the introduction of a next-generation two-stage rocket during the launch marked a significant milestone as it can transport payloads to various destinations, including low Earth orbit (LEO), geosynchronous orbit (GEO), and even to the Moon and beyond for deep space exploration missions.

The Peregrine Moon lander mission setback is reminiscent of similar attempts by other nations. Israel’s Beresheet and India’s Chandrayaan-2 missions both ended in crashes in 2019. Japan’s ispace also faced a setback in April 2023 when its Hakuto-R lander crashed on the lunar surface.

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