After the American lunar lander failed to reach the moon due to a fuel leak during flight, its mission must come to a glittering end on Thursday by voluntarily disintegrating in Earth's atmosphere.
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Astrobotic, the startup that developed the device, positioned the lander over the waters of the South Pacific “for a controlled re-entry,” X (formerly Twitter) said Thursday.
The machine, called Peregrine, was still about 30,000 miles (48,000 km) from Earth on Thursday morning, the company said, releasing a photo of the darkened Earth taken from the lunar lander.
The latter launched from Florida early last week, but a fuel leak was quickly discovered, preventing a soft landing on the moon as planned.
However, the lander continued to operate in space, collecting useful flight data for a future attempt and even allowing experiments to be carried out on board, notably sent by NASA, such as measuring radiation.
However, the company also had to assess how to complete the mission, taking into account the uncertainties associated with the leak, without risking causing problems for the satellites in Earth orbit or debris in lunar orbit.
The company announced this weekend that it had made “the difficult decision” to maintain a trajectory that steered the lander toward Earth, even though it might have continued operating for “weeks.”
“We do not believe that Peregrine’s re-entry poses any safety risks and that the ship will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere,” Astrobotic wrote at the time.
The lander is about the size of a small golf car.
The company is planning a press conference on Friday to review the entire mission.
Astrobotic was intended to be the first time an American device had landed on the moon in more than 50 years, and the first time by a private company.
A Japanese mini spacecraft must attempt to land on the moon on Friday night Japan time, which would be a great first for the country.