Failed Peregrine One Lunar Lander On Course For Earthly Disintegration

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Rather than entering lunar orbit next week for a planned Moon landing in late February, the space vehicle carrying the ashes of Gene Roddenberry and half the cast of the original Star Trek TV series will burn up this week on re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere. Astrobotic’s Peregrine One lander has aborted its lunar mission after a 238,000-mile flight that crossed the path of the Moon’s orbit.

According to the company, as reported on the Inverse website, “We must balance our own desire to extend Peregrine’s life, operate payloads, and learn more about the spacecraft, with the risk that our damaged spacecraft could cause a problem in cislunar space.”

Astrobotic believes that shortly after takeoff from Cape Canaveral in Florida, the valve separating the Peregrine One lander’s helium propellant and oxygenator tanks stuck open. The lander needs to balance its supply of oxygen and propellant to operate properly, and the stuck valve made that not possible. Astrobotic said in a statement, “While this is a working theory, a full analysis report will be produced by a formal review board made up of industry experts after the mission is complete. All available data is being downloaded from the lander to support this assessment.”

NASA, other U.S. government agencies and members of “the space community” recommended that Astrobotic initiate the return to Earth for the Peregrine One lander. Astrobotic agreed, to ensure the lander did not become a menace to future lunar navigation as a potentially dangerous piece of “space junk” that would menace both the Moon and the Earth.

NASA and Astrobotic are monitoring the return flight of the Peregrine One lander and assure the public there will be no danger on the Earth’s surface as the craft disintegrates in the Earth’s atmosphere “dozens of miles” up. The ashes of Roddenberry and three Star Trek actors are on board, along with the remains of sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke and DNA samples from several former U.S. presidents. According to reporting, some of the ashes were intended to be buried on the Moon, while others were destined to be launched into deep space.

While the cargo of human remains was most noteworthy in the media, the Peregrine One also carries NASA instrumentation, robots associated with the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the Mexican Space Agency, and a lunar rover from Carnegie Mellon University.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

31 COMMENTS

  1. How much of our $34T national debt was caused by this latest space boondoggle? The ROI on taxpayer-funded space travel has been negative for decades. Privatize everything, especially NASA. And not just a shift to taxpayer-funded private companies as is yet the case.

    • That $34T is $34T that’s not going towards hiring additional IRS agents. That’s $34T not going towards another war. That’s $34T that’s not going towards a new MRAP for my Sheriff.

      A net positive ROI.

    • “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” H. L. Mencken

      Congratulations, Kent! That comment entitles you to wear the AvWeb “Luddite of Day” toilet-paper crown. You seem to be on a campaign to retire that trophy. Can’t wait to hear how you feel about Social Security.

    • Practically none. If nasa never existed it would still be 34T. Like a lot of things people complain about it’s a rounding error. The money is in Social Security, Medicare, debt service, and the military.

      • Bingo Elton! If we had continued the pace of expenditure during the Apollo program, the advances made would have translated into better technology, lifestyle and jobs for America and the world. Instead we went down the rabbit hole of “social justice” by giving away billions to people and not requiring productive work in the process. We took the wrong path….

      • At this point, isn’t military spending being unfairly categorized with the others? There used to be a popular graph that went around showing how military spending used to be over half the budget back in the days that people were still reasonably happy with our government. Now it’s 5 percent?

        • It was a safety valve. At one point after the financial crash, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and debit service exceeded revenues. Everything else including DOD was borrowed. Entitlements are growing as boomers retire so this problem isn’t going away. As Jack Kemp observed many years ago, the only way out is robust growth.

    • I’ll not begrudge any amount of money spent toward the advancement of knowledge, technology, and the human spirit. My guess is that the percentage of the money spent on space exploration approaches zero when compared with the 34T deficit.

    • Amen. I think Boeing should take over NASA and do for space exploration what they have done for commercial aviation.

  2. The remains of the notables didn’t arrive at the intended destination but they got a fantastic ride. I guess we’ll find out from the heirs and assigns if that was sufficient.

  3. I hope Astrobotic Technology and ULA never planned to charge for this attempt which, from what I gather, was a test flight, the equivalent of a Pt 135 proving test if you will. 🙂

  4. Too bad there wasn’t enough propellant to allow it to sling-shot the Sun and head out “where no one has gone before”.

  5. Hey guys, remember the newsreels we watched from the 60s showing all the Redstone, Atlas, and Titan failures? I particularly liked the one where it gets about 2 meters off the pad and then collapses down on itself. And then there was Apollos 1 and 13, and later Challenger and Columbia. Space has always been a hard place. Until I become a rocket engineer who can design something better, I’ll try to reserve judgement. The Star Trek bit was fun, though…

  6. In the 1990’s, as a charter member of the NASM’s National Air & Space Society, members were invited to a NASA Alumni meeting for the day, as guests. At that time, NASA’s Administrator, Dan Golden, made this possible. We heard and saw amazing accomplishments/developments, and the plan for the “Constellation” project, then in progress, which was a return to moon. We also learned of the replacement of replacement of the Space Shuttle, which outlasted it’s time frame. The concepts were in development, and they all looked more like futuristic aircraft. We also heard about the downside of working with Russia on Mir. Russia’s short falls on how they cost us financially, and were often behind. The US was also sinking money into their general aviation. And then came an announcement that Pres. Bill Clinton was terminating the Constellation project. Dan Golden said they fought to keep it, and with emotion in his voice, he told the audience they offered to work on it free just to keep it going, and the answer was still “no”. I still have my notes and hand outs of that day. Soon after, I spoke with Sen. John Glenn at an NAA event. ( This was a great organization where you would meet up with the legends in a relaxed atmosphere to chat, as they were often members, too.) We talked about the cancellation of Constellation, and he said they were getting a bunch of astronauts together to testify on the Hill, not to drop the ball on the space program. It was bi-partisan, because they all recognized the importance to be leaders in space, and what that meant. I also spoke with Eugene Cernan (the last man on the moon) andhe said he had wanted to be involved. Scientists at Goddard Space Flight Center, had already pulled the charts and whatever they had from the past missions, and began looking them over. One astronaut very high up, still in now, who was working on Constellation, told me how important it was to go back to the moon, to continue the wave of new space projects, saying, “I’m not worried about being out of a job, I can get another. It’s about the importance of the building on the space program.” Yes, space is beauty, intriguing and very unforgiving, but they know and accept that. To me, pulling the plug back then on the new shuttle design, the mission to the moon, and who knows what else, was the beginning of the end for NASA, as we knew it. AND they knew it, too.

  7. Well, it seems Scotty really didn’t fix the antimatter converter problem after all and now they’ll burn up in the atmosphere for sure.

  8. I blame Gene Roddenberry for this failure. After all, he was the one who assured us that “Star Trek” was on a “five-year mission”, and it was lost only three years into it.

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