The ship on which the United States wanted to return to the Moon disintegrates in the background of the Earth’s atmosphere | The science

This time everything went according to plan: the ship Pilgrim from Astrobotic disintegrated in the Earth’s atmosphere somewhere north of New Zealand, over the South Pacific Ocean, after 11 days of space travel. The module, which claimed to be the first private landing on the Moon, took off from Cape Canaveral (Florida, USA) on January 8 aboard a new rocket. Volcano. But a few hours after takeoff, Astrobotic reported a fatal anomaly in its propulsion systems that prevented it from successfully reaching its goal. Since it had enough fuel to maneuver, the company, NASA and the US government decided to destroy the ship against Earth rather than leave it to wander as space junk.

“As expected, Astrobotic lost the ship’s telemetry signal. Pilgrim at 15:50 Eastern Standard Time (21:50 Thursday Spanish Peninsula Time),” he noted in statement. “While this indicates that the vehicle completed a controlled re-entry over open water at 4:04 EST (10:04 pm EST), we are awaiting independent confirmation from government agencies.” Telescopes in Australia and the United Arab Emirates captured the craft as it approached Earth, but at this time Friday morning there were no expected images of the flare as it hit the atmosphere.

“The team is continuously monitoring our re-entry analysis with NASA,” Astrobotic said in a statement Thursday, “which indicates a re-entry trajectory over the designated area without the expected hazard.” “Safe reentry is our top priority,” the company explained, so the team developed a two-stage maneuver to determine the flight path. towards the South Pacific using its main engines. “The procedures the team followed were intended to minimize the risk of the remains reaching the ground,” said Astrobotic, who has been in contact with authorities and NASA, the space agency with which he will hold a news conference on Friday.

Before performing these maneuvers, Pilgrim took a video selfie with the Earth in the background when it was several kilometers from its end.

The Peregrino 1 mission, the first American lander since Apollo, is part of a new program of private launches supported by NASA. There will be more such public-private launches in the coming months, both involving Astrobotic and other companies such as Houston-based Intuitive Machines, which will launch a lunar lander aboard a SpaceX rocket in February.

All the devices that were on board the ship from various institutions around the world were lost along with the ship. There were NASA instruments, but other, more controversial objects also traveled: the remains of dozens of people sent by the US space burial company Elysium Space, such as the remains of three United States presidents: George Washington, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. All these remains were evaporated with the help of Pilgrim.

Loading of the Peregrino 1 mission in an image provided by United Launch Alliance.YULA

This setback comes in the midst of an intense space race for the Moon that sees the axis of victory shift toward new entrants. The United States hasn’t landed on the moon in five decades, Russia crashed its craft several months ago, and private attempts by Israel and Japan have also failed in recent years. Meanwhile, China has successfully deployed three devices in the last decade, and India has just achieved this. Japan will try again this Friday, and if successful, it will become the fifth country to soft-land on the Moon, after the Soviet Union, the United States, India and China.

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