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US Launches First Moon Lander in 50 Years

Mon 08 Jan 2024 | 06:29 PM
Israa Farhan

The United States has embarked on its first moon landing mission in over half a century.

The launch took place in the early hours of Monday morning at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The spacecraft, named "Vulcan," was developed through a collaboration between Boeing and Lockheed Martin's "United Launch Alliance" (ULA).

The liftoff occurred at precisely 2:18 a.m. (718 GMT). Onboard the Vulcan rocket is Astrobotic Technology's lunar lander, known as "Peregrine."

Astrobotic Technology, a private space robotics company based in Pittsburgh, aspires to achieve a historic milestone by becoming the first private company to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon.

Eric Monda, a ULA mission official, expressed his satisfaction with the launch, stating, "Everything looks just spot on, just perfect," from the company's launch control room.

Approximately 30 minutes after liftoff, ULA provided updates on the flight's stability as the spacecraft orbited around the Earth during the initial phase of its journey.

They reported, "Half-way through this coast period, Centaur systems remain stable as it coasts in Earth orbit, headed to a precise point in space above the Indian Ocean where the second engine firing is planned."

Following this phase, the rocket's engines reignited to transition into a trans-lunar injection orbit, setting it on course for the Moon-bound Peregrine lander, as confirmed by ULA's tweet.

The Peregrine lunar lander is scheduled to touch down on the lunar surface on February 23. Its mission objectives include collecting valuable data about the lunar terrain, which will be crucial for planning and executing future human missions to the Moon.

If all proceeds according to plan, Peregrine will mark the US’ first soft landing on the moon since the historic Apollo missions concluded in 1972.

This mission signifies a significant step forward in lunar exploration and the resurgence of American efforts in space exploration beyond Earth's orbit.