CAPE CANAVERAL (Agencies): Astrobotic Technology, a US aerospace firm, has abandoned its moon landing mission due to a fuel leak, marking a setback for the nation’s first attempted lunar surface mission in over 50 years.
The company announced on Tuesday that its unmanned spacecraft, Peregrine, would not be able to make a soft landing on the moon due to the leak. The issue, possibly caused by a stuck valve, led to a tank rupture shortly after the craft’s launch on Monday. Although the craft can still collect valuable data, it is expected to deplete its propellant by Thursday.
The moon landing, initially scheduled for February 23, would have been a historic first by a private company and the first US landing since 1972. Despite this setback, another company, Intuitive Machines based in Houston, plans to launch a separate lunar landing mission next month.
On the same day as Astrobotic’s announcement, NASA also delayed its planned moon missions by a year each. The Artemis II mission, aiming to send four astronauts around the moon in NASA’s next-generation capsule, has been postponed to September 2025. The Artemis III mission, which plans to land astronauts near the moon’s south pole, has been rescheduled for no earlier than September 2026.
NASA stated that it needs additional time to adjust and test new technology on its Orion spacecraft, including its life-support system and heat shield, for manned flights. SpaceX, Elon Musk’s company, has been contracted to provide the new NASA landing craft for the Artemis III mission.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson emphasized that astronaut safety is NASA’s top priority as they prepare for future Artemis missions. He noted that early equipment testing revealed issues that necessitate more time to resolve.
Astrobotic’s Peregrine spacecraft, developed under a $108 million contract with NASA, carried 20 payloads for commercial and government customers, including NASA, intended for delivery to the moon. The mission was seen as a way to place a relatively inexpensive robotic lander on the moon. The vehicle reportedly carried scientific instruments and a navigation sensor for NASA.