US Set to Make Historic Return to Moon After 50-Year Hiatus

Discover the historic return of the US to the Moon after 50 years, as Astrobotic becomes the first private company to attempt a lunar landing. Learn about the challenges, risks, and goals of this groundbreaking mission.


Mr. Roboto

12/5/20234 min read

US Set to Make Historic Return to Moon After 50-Year Hiatus
US Set to Make Historic Return to Moon After 50-Year Hiatus

In a historic endeavor, the United States is poised to make its long-awaited return to the Moon, more than 50 years after the last Apollo mission. Scheduled for January 25, this mission will see the landing of the Peregrine lander, developed by American company Astrobotic. Unlike previous lunar missions, Peregrine will not carry any astronauts but will carry NASA instruments to study the lunar environment. This mission marks a significant step towards NASA's Artemis manned missions and the development of a lunar economy. With only half of the missions to the Moon being successful, the challenges are immense, but the anticipation and determination are palpable as this momentous journey approaches.

First private company to land on the Moon

The United States is set to make history once again as the first private company attempts to land on the Moon in over 50 years. This groundbreaking mission will be carried out by American company Astrobotic, with their lander named Peregrine. Although there will be no humans on board, Peregrine will carry instruments provided by NASA to study the lunar environment, in support of the agency's Artemis program.

The opportunity for private companies to send scientific experiments and technologies to the Moon was made possible through NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. This initiative aims to commission US companies to develop a lunar economy and provide cost-effective transportation services. By partnering with private entities, NASA hopes to accelerate the exploration and utilization of the Moon.

Challenges of launch and landing on the Moon

One of the greatest challenges in this mission is the complex task of launching and landing on the lunar surface. Only about half of the previous missions to the Moon have been successful, highlighting the daunting nature of this endeavor. Astrobotic's CEO, John Thornton, acknowledges the risks involved but remains excited about the mission's potential. He expressed his mix of terror and thrill at every stage of the mission, emphasizing the significance of this historic feat.

The launch is scheduled for December 24 from Florida aboard the inaugural flight of the Vulcan Centaur rocket, developed by the ULA industrial group. After a few days in lunar orbit, Peregrine will attempt landing on January 25, ensuring optimal light conditions at the target location. The descent will be autonomously controlled, but human monitoring will be conducted from Astrobotic's control center.

Previous private company attempts to land on the Moon

While Astrobotic aims to become the first successful private company to land on the Moon, they are not the first to attempt this feat. In the spring of a previous year, a Japanese start-up called ispace made an unsuccessful landing attempt. Additionally, Israel faced a setback in 2019 with their failed mission. However, these experiences have contributed to the collective knowledge and understanding of the challenges involved.

Successful Moon landings by countries

To date, only four countries have successfully landed on the Moon: the United States, Russia, China, and India. The United States, through the Apollo missions, achieved the first human landing on the Moon in 1969. This marked a significant milestone in space exploration and demonstrated the technological prowess of the nation. Subsequently, Russia and China also successfully landed their respective lunar missions. India joined this exclusive group in the most recent successful Moon landing.

Astrobotic and other contracted companies by NASA

Astrobotic is not the only company contracted by NASA through the CLPS program. Several other companies, including Firefly Aerospace, Draper, and Intuitive Machines, have also signed agreements to further lunar exploration. These partnerships demonstrate the collaborative efforts being made to establish a sustainable lunar economy and pave the way for future manned missions.

Risks and impact of the CLPS program

NASA acknowledges the risks associated with the CLPS program and understands that not every mission may succeed. However, the agency believes that even in the face of occasional failures, the program has already made a significant impact on the commercial infrastructure required for a lunar economy. This commitment to pushing the boundaries of space exploration reflects NASA's pioneering spirit and its determination to establish a base on the Moon through the Artemis program.

NASA's Artemis program for establishing a lunar base

The Artemis program represents NASA's ambitious plan to establish a sustained human presence on the Moon by the end of the decade. Building upon the success of previous lunar missions, Artemis aims to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon. This lunar base will serve as a stepping stone for future missions to Mars and beyond, ultimately advancing our understanding of the universe and furthering humanity's exploration of space.

In conclusion, the upcoming mission by Astrobotic presents a groundbreaking opportunity for the United States to return to the Moon. As the first private company to attempt a Moon landing, the success of this endeavor would mark a significant milestone in space exploration. With NASA's support and the collaborative efforts of various contracted companies, the CLPS program is poised to accelerate the development of a lunar economy. As we look towards the future, the Artemis program holds the promise of establishing a sustainable human presence on the Moon, fostering scientific discoveries, and inspiring generations to reach for the stars.


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