It looks like Peregrine will return home where the final resting place of the lunar landing began. A doomed spaceship experienced an anomaly shortly after launch and has been leaking fuel ever since, expected to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere, Astrobotic wrote in an update on X this weekend. The company plans to hold a press conference with NASA on Thursday, January 18 at 12:00 PM ET to discuss the fate of the lander.
Peregrine has so far been down longer than anyone thought since the leak was first discovered on January 8, and Astrobotic has been sending out status updates around the clock. The company ruled out a soft landing on the moon’s surface a few days ago, but there was some uncertainty about exactly where it would end up. Peregrine managed to reach the distance of the moon – reached 238,000 miles From Earth on Friday, and then 242,000 on Saturday – but with the Moon now in orbit, there was nothing to greet it.
If all went according to plan, Peregrine would rendezvous with the Moon about 15 days after launch, at which point it could begin its transition from Earth orbit to Lunar orbit. It’s only six days, and Peregrine’s dwindling fuel supply won’t carry her for another nine. “Our analysis efforts were hampered by a fuel leak that added uncertainty to predictions of the vehicle’s trajectory,” Astrobotic said in its latest update on Saturday. “Our latest assessment now shows that the spacecraft is on its way to Earth and will likely burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.”
It was always a known risk Peregrine Mission One could end this way; Moon landings are very difficult. The commercial mission marked the first to be contracted under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, and “We recognize that success cannot be guaranteed,” said Chris Culbert, NASA’s CLPS Program Manager, in a pre-launch briefing last week.