May 22, 2024

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US finally returns to the moon next month after 50 long years: ScienceAlert

US finally returns to the moon next month after 50 long years: ScienceAlert

More than 50 years after the last Apollo mission, the United States will again attempt to land a rover on the moon on January 25, the head of what could be the first private company to successfully land on the moon said.

Landing, its name The peregrine falconNo one will be on board. It was developed by the US company Astrobotic, whose CEO John Thornton said it would carry NASA instruments to study the lunar environment in anticipation of NASA’s manned Artemis missions.

Several years ago, NASA chose to commission American companies to send scientific experiments and technology to the Moon – a program called CLPS.

These fixed-price contracts are supposed to allow the development of the lunar economy and provide transportation services at a lower cost.

“One of the big challenges of what we’re trying here is trying to launch and land on the moon for a fraction of the cost,” Thornton Wednesday said at a news conference at his company’s base in Pittsburgh.

“Only about half of the missions that have gone to the moon’s surface have been successful,” he said.

“So it’s definitely a daunting challenge. I’ll be terrified and excited at every stage of this.”

Liftoff is scheduled to take place on December 24 from Florida on the inaugural flight of the new rocket from ULA Industrial Group, called Vulcan Centaur.

Thornton said the probe will then take “a few days” to reach lunar orbit, but will have to wait until January 25 before attempting to land, so that the lighting conditions at the target site are suitable.

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The landing process will be carried out autonomously, without human intervention, but will be monitored from the company’s control center.

In the spring, Japanese startup ispace actually attempted to become the first private company to land on the moon, but the mission ended in an accident. Israel also suffered a setback in 2019. Only four countries succeeded in landing on the moon: the United States, Russia, China, and most recently India.

In addition to Astrobotic, NASA has signed contracts with other companies, such as Firefly Aerospace, Draper, and Intuitive Machines.

The latter is scheduled to lift off on a SpaceX rocket in January.

“NASA leadership recognizes the risks and has accepted that some of these missions may not succeed,” said Chris Colbert, CLPS program manager.

“But even if not every landing was successful, CLPS did have an impact on the commercial infrastructure needed to create a lunar economy,” he said.

Through the Artemis program, NASA wants to establish a base on the moon.

© Agence France-Presse