Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander continues on a trajectory toward Earth and is expected to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere on Thursday, Jan. 18.
To ensure a controlled, safe re-entry, Astrobotic in coordination with NASA and other government agencies, changed the spacecraft’s projected re-entry location to a remote area of the South Pacific. No ground hazards are anticipated.
Astrobotic evaluated several options with NASA consultation to end the mission safely and determined that the best approach for minimizing risk and ensuring responsible disposal of the spacecraft would be Peregrine’s re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, likely causing the spacecraft to burn up.
After Astrobotic confirmed that Astrobotic’s Peregrine Mission One would not be a soft-landing on the Moon, NASA science teams adjusted their procedures to collect data in cislunar space. All NASA payloads designed to power on have received power and collected data including, the Linear Energy Transfer Sectrometer (LETS), Near-Infrared Volatile Spectrometer System (NIRVSS), Neutron Spectrometer System (NSS), and the Peregrine Ion-Trap Mass Spectrometer (PITMS) . Since the LRA (Laser Retroreflector Array) instrument is a passive experiment designed for the lunar surface, it cannot conduct any operations in transit.
Although interpreting the results will require some time, preliminary data suggests that the instruments have collected measurements of the radiation environment and chemical compounds in the lander vicinity, a positive sign that the instruments survived the harsh conditions of space and are functioning as expected.
NSS and LETS gathered measurements of the radiation environment in interplanetary space around Earth and the Moon. The two instruments collected different components of the radiation spectrum, providing complementary insights into the galactic cosmic ray activity and space weather resulting from solar activity.
PITMS operations were successful, and the team was able to acquire multiple mass spectra both before and after opening the instrument’s protective dust cover. The data confirm that PITMS was in good health and that the instrument could provide useful measurements of lunar volatile compounds on future missions. PITMS is a partnership between NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, The Open University, RAL Space, and the European Space Agency.
NIRVSS also successfully powered on and collected images, spectra, and additional data around the lander. A variety of chemical compounds were detected in the NIRVSS spectra, which the team currently attributes to lander outgassing and leaked fuel. The team also refined their process for capturing spectra, or intensity of light being emitted, and images while at low data rates. Some of this work validated data processing methods, tools, and operational procedures, all of which will improve NASA’s ability to map the lunar surface in the future.
Astrobotic will host a media telecon at 1:00 p.m. EST, Friday, Jan. 19, to provide an end of mission update.
Additional updates can be found on Astrobotic’s platforms.