Doomed $108 million Peregrine One lunar lander carrying JFK’s remains is destroyed in


America’s doomed private lunar lander ended its mission with a fiery re-entry into Earth on Thursday, following its failed flight to the moon.

Today, the private NASA contractor behind the project announced plans to impanel ‘an Anomaly Review Board’ to investigate what exactly had lead to the explosive rupture that drained the craft of fuel and blasted it off course.

Peregrine One had been set to touch down on the lunar surface, but experienced a fuel leak in space last week, forcing the ground team to bring the craft back home.

Just before 4pm EST (9pm GMT) Thursday, Peregrine burned up in the atmosphere somewhere over the South Pacific Ocean, about 400 miles south of Fiji.

NASA contractor Astrobotic, which developed the lander, shared its final updates Friday afternoon, along with stunning video of Peregrine embarking on its mission, which launched January 8.

A thermal-imaging camera also caught the craft this Thursday in another clip, which documented the thwarted moon robot’s last moments as the team redirected Peregrine’s thrusters hoping to steer the spacecraft away from human habitation. 

Doomed private lunar lander, Peregrine One, crashed back to Earth yesterday, burning-up above Australia, but not before snapping one last indelible image. The company also dropped a stunning video of 'spaceship Earth' taken shortly after the probe's January 8th launch (above)

Doomed private lunar lander, Peregrine One, crashed back to Earth yesterday, burning-up above Australia, but not before snapping one last indelible image. The company also dropped a stunning video of ‘spaceship Earth’ taken shortly after the probe’s January 8th launch (above)

Peregrine's eerie final re-entry image (above), shows an eclipsed 'Crescent Earth' gleaming in the void of space. It posted to X by the Peregrine probe's maker, NASA contractor Astrobotic

Peregrine’s eerie final re-entry image (above), shows an eclipsed ‘Crescent Earth’ gleaming in the void of space. It posted to X by the Peregrine probe’s maker, NASA contractor Astrobotic

While the hope of the US returning to the moon has been temporarily dashed, Astrobotic CEO John Thornton expressed high hopes for its future Griffin lunar lander missions

‘What a wild adventure we were just on,’ Thornton said. ‘Certainly not the outcome we were hoping for and certainly challenging right up front.’ 

Like the Peregrine, these robotic lunar landers are expected to serve as a scout for the NASA‘s Artemis astronauts before they make their own moon landing in 2026.

The CEO and trained mechanical engineer described ‘victory’ after ‘victory’ as his team scrambled to make the most of the scrapped Peregrine mission.

‘On the way, out we activated all of the payloads that had power or could use power during the mission,’ Thornton told reporters Friday. 

‘We received successful signals from all of those payloads and we got data back from all of the payloads that could send data. We were very pleased to see that.’ 

Thornton noted that Germany’s space agency, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt or DLR, expressed gratitude that its payload of scientific instrumentation onboard the Peregrine managed to collect much-needed cosmic radiation data.

‘The DLR M42 radiation detector was working perfectly through out the whole mission timeline,’ Dr. Thomas Berger, the head of DLR’s Biophysics Group and an expert in radiation biology, said in a statement. 

The 1.2-ton lander had been carrying $108 million worth of NASA instruments, a hair sample from US President John F Kennedy, and the ashes of 60 other people set to be dropped on the lunar surface (pictured)

The 1.2-ton lander had been carrying $108 million worth of NASA instruments, a hair sample from US President John F Kennedy, and the ashes of 60 other people set to be dropped on the lunar surface (pictured) 

‘We were able to gather over 92 hours of data measuring the radiation environment in ‘free space’ … which is extremely valuable for the scientific community and DLR.’

In a statement published Thursday night, Astrobotic reported that it had lost telemetry signal reception from the Peregrine spacecraft at around 3:50pm EST (8:50pm GMT) ‘as expected.’

‘While this indicates the vehicle completed its controlled re-entry over open water in the South Pacific at 4:04pm,’ the company said, ‘we await independent confirmation from government entities.’

But while Astrobotic waits, it is also planning to assemble its own team of industry experts to get to the bottom of what went wrong with the spacecraft in the hours after its January 8th rocket launch. 

At a 1pm EST media teleconference today, live-streamed on NASA’s YouTube channel, CEO John Thornton told reporters, ‘We’re going to be looking at this very heavily with an Anomaly Review Board.’

‘Our leading theory has not changed at this point,’ Thornton noted. 

‘But what appears to have happened is that valve connecting the helium to the oxidizer did not properly ‘reseat’ and sent a rush of helium [the ‘pressurant’ gas designed to move the liquid fuel] into the oxidizer side.’ 

‘And I describe it as a ‘rush,” he added, ‘because it was very very fast.’

The result, Thornton said echoing past assessments, was a ‘catastrophic loss of propellent’ that left Peregrine’s lunar landing mission aborted while the team scrambled to redirect the spacecraft and attempt useful fallback objectives. 

At around 4:04pm EST Thursday, Peregrine One hit a remote region of the South Pacific Ocean, about 400 miles south of Fiji, as caught on thermal cameras

This map (above) shows the re-entry area with the orange circle offering a 99 per cent degree of certainty where it hit

At around 4:04pm EST Thursday, Peregrine One hit a remote region of the South Pacific, about 400 miles south of Fiji, as caught on thermal cameras (left). This map (right) shows the re-entry area with the orange circle offering a 99 per cent degree of certainty where it crash-landed

Once it became clear that Peregrine One would fail its objective of landing on the moon, Astrobotic redirected the craft back to Earth to avoid space debris

In the last few days, it’s got closer and closer to Earth and is now less than 100,000 miles away.

On Wednesday, the Astrobotic team were able to move the spacecraft and change its projected trajectory so it would hit an uninhabited area of the South Pacific Ocean.

This involved firing the craft’s engines with a series of short burns before adjusting the spacecraft’s altitude so the force induced by the propellant leak shifted it towards the South Pacific.

Not to be: This illustration from Astrobotic Technology depicts the Peregrine lunar lander on the surface of the moon - but the mission has failed and the lander will soon be gone

Not to be: This illustration from Astrobotic Technology depicts the Peregrine lunar lander on the surface of the moon – but the mission has failed and the lander will soon be gone

A brand new rocket, United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Vulcan Centaur, lifted Peregrine into orbit from Space Launch Complex 41d at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on January 8, 2024 (above)

A brand new rocket, United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan Centaur, lifted Peregrine into orbit from Space Launch Complex 41d at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on January 8, 2024 (above)

‘The procedures the team executed were to minimize the risk of debris reaching land,’ the firm added. 

‘Astrobotic continues to work closely with NASA and other relevant government authorities to keep everyone informed and to solicit feedback as appropriate.’ 

Spacecraft are broken up during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, but the surviving fragments – many larger than vehicles – rain down on Earth’s surface and can cause damage if they hit land. 

As it re-enters the atmosphere, Peregrine will hit air molecules at about 17,000mph and mostly burn up and disintegrate.

But the surviving pieces will be contained in the nominated zone of the South Pacific, Astrobotic expects. 

Under a $108 million contract with NASA, the 1.2-ton lander is carrying 20 payloads including science instruments and DNA samples from US presidents John F Kennedy, Dwight D Eisenhower, and George Washington. 

The lander also holds the remains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, alongside the ashes of around 60 other individuals that were set to be dropped on the lunar surface. 

Unfortunately, these treasured items will likely all be lost when the lander burns up in Earth’s atmosphere; MailOnline has contacted Astrobotic for comment. 

Despite the failure, Astrobotic said it had been able to power up science experiments that it was carrying for NASA and other space agencies and to gather spaceflight data. 

WHAT IS SPACE JUNK? MORE THAN 170 MILLION PIECES OF DEAD SATELLITES, SPENT ROCKETS AND FLAKES OF PAINT POSE ‘THREAT’ TO SPACE INDUSTRY

There are an estimated 170 million pieces of so-called ‘space junk’ – left behind after missions that can be as big as spent rocket stages or as small as paint flakes – in orbit alongside some US$700 billion (£555bn) of space infrastructure.

But only 27,000 are tracked, and with the fragments able to travel at speeds above 16,777 mph (27,000kmh), even tiny pieces could seriously damage or destroy satellites.

However, traditional gripping methods don’t work in space, as suction cups do not function in a vacuum and temperatures are too cold for substances like tape and glue.

Grippers based around magnets are useless because most of the debris in orbit around Earth is not magnetic.

Around 500,000 pieces of human-made debris (artist’s impression) currently orbit our planet, made up of disused satellites, bits of spacecraft and spent rockets

Most proposed solutions, including debris harpoons, either require or cause forceful interaction with the debris, which could push those objects in unintended, unpredictable directions.

Scientists point to two events that have badly worsened the problem of space junk.

The first was in February 2009, when an Iridium telecoms satellite and Kosmos-2251, a Russian military satellite, accidentally collided.

The second was in January 2007, when China tested an anti-satellite weapon on an old Fengyun weather satellite.

Experts also pointed to two sites that have become worryingly cluttered.

One is low Earth orbit which is used by satnav satellites, the ISS, China’s manned missions and the Hubble telescope, among others.

The other is in geostationary orbit, and is used by communications, weather and surveillance satellites that must maintain a fixed position relative to Earth. 

 





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