NASA selected Astrobotic’s “Peregrine,” named for Earth’s fastest flying bird, to carry over 20 lunar payloads, including five science instruments for NASA. They include miniature rovers, a memorial plaque, and a coin with one bitcoin. Created as an efficient way for the agency to bring payloads to the moon, some refer to Peregrine as the “Lunar FedEx.”
Peregrine is the first of many moon ventures under NASA’s CLPS initiative, and it is expected to spark a new space race.
Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon within five years, NASA’s lunar exploration plans are based on a two-phase approach: The first is focused on landing astronauts on the moon by 2024, and the second will establish a sustained human presence on and around the moon by 2028. They will use what was learned on the moon to prepare to send astronauts to Mars.
Peregrine is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral on Dec. 24 with the stealth Vulcan Centaur rocket. The robotic avian will zoom through space and fly into the moon’s gravitational tides, then it will lower its orbit until it eventually touches down on a region of ancient lunar lava flows called the Bay of Stickiness.
The scientific objectives of the Peregrine mission, according to NASA’s website, are to study the lunar exosphere, thermal properties, and hydrogen abundance of the lunar regolith, magnetic fields, and the radiation environment. It will also test advanced solar arrays.
“Our selection of these U.S. commercial landing service providers represents America’s return to the Moon’s surface for the first time in decades, and it’s a huge step forward for our Artemis lunar exploration plans,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a press release.
“Next year, our initial science and technology research will be on the lunar surface, which will help support sending the first woman and the next man to the Moon in five years,” Bridenstine added.
Astrobotic Technology, the maker of Peregrine, is the Pittsburgh aerospace and robotics company selected by NASA under the CLPS program. As a privately held company, it develops technology for the next phase of humankind’s exploration of space, particularly for missions to the moon and other planets.