ULA Vulcan Rocket Launches Private US Moon Lander, 1st Since Apollo, And Human Remains in Debut Flight

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ULA Vulcan Rocket Launches Private US Moon Lander, 1st Since Apollo, And Human Remains in Debut Flight

Space News ,World :- In the early hours of January 8, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan Centaur embarked on a historic journey, marking its inaugural flight named Cert-1. Taking off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, the 202-foot-tall rocket, fueled by two solid rocket boosters and two Blue Origin-built BE-4 first-stage engines, roared into the dark Florida sky with a staggering 2 million pounds of thrust.

Perched atop the rocket was the Astrobotic Peregrine moon lander, hailing from Pittsburgh, carrying a diverse payload of 20 items, including five NASA science instruments. The spectacle was nothing short of breathtaking as Vulcan exhaust formed a towering pillar, and two minutes post-launch, the solid rocket boosters gracefully detached from the first-stage booster.

Around five minutes later, the first stage shut its engines down, initiating the separation from the Centaur upper stage. After a 15-second coast phase, Centaur executed the first of three burns, marking a significant phase in the mission. Approximately 50.5 minutes post-launch, Peregrine was released to commence its lunar voyage.

Amidst the excitement, ULA president and CEO Tory Bruno exclaimed, "Yeehaw! I am so thrilled, I can not tell you how much." This mission could potentially make history, with Peregrine becoming the first American spacecraft to touch the moon surface since Apollo 17 in 1972 and, perhaps, the first private mission ever to land on the moon.

The Cert-1 launch is a key milestone for NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. Astrobotic Peregrine, contracted through CLPS, not only marks a significant achievement for the space agency but also sets the stage for a new era of lunar exploration.

NASA CLPS contracts, exemplified by Peregrine mission, are transforming the way space missions are executed. Instead of handling every aspect internally, NASA is now collaborating with private companies, like Astrobotic, to handle mission design, lander construction, launch vehicle procurement, and communication systems. This shift allows NASA to focus on cutting-edge research and development, preparing for the Artemis program ambitious goal of landing astronauts on the moon by 2025 or 2026.

The Peregrine mission carries five scientific payloads from NASA, designed to study various aspects of the lunar environment. These instruments will play a crucial role in preparing for future Artemis missions, particularly those targeting the moon southern polar region, rich in water ice.

Astrobotic Peregrine is not only advancing scientific exploration but also serving as a platform for international cooperation. The 20-payload roster includes contributions from six nations, marking a collaborative effort to explore and understand the moon mysteries.

However, the mission is not without its share of controversies. Celestis, a space memorial company, has included a payload named Tranquility, carrying the DNA and cremated remains of individuals to be permanently placed on the moon. This move has sparked ethical debates and objections, notably from the Navajo Nation. The incident underscores the challenges of balancing commercial interests with ethical considerations in the evolving landscape of lunar exploration.

As Peregrine heads towards its lunar landing scheduled for February 23, the success of this mission will not only make history but also pave the way for a new chapter in lunar exploration, demonstrating the potential of collaboration between public and private entities in shaping the future of space exploration.

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