Despite the scientific focus of Astrobotic’s privately crafted lunar lander, the “Peregrine,” the mission also carries some controversial cargo – cremated human remains for “space burials” from two companies, Elysium Space and Celestis, sending these remains into orbit or to the moon.
A brainchild of the Pittsburgh-based company Astrobotic, Peregrine is set to embark on its journey into space on Monday at 2:18 a.m. ET.
With no crew aboard, the spacecraft will ride atop the United Launch Alliance’s cutting-edge Vulcan Centaur rocket, taking off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
NASA reports an 85% chance of favorable weather conditions for the Monday launch, heightening expectations for the historic mission.
Success would mark Astrobotic as the pioneer private company to execute a controlled, or “soft,” landing on the lunar surface.
While the moon mission is privately funded, it receives sponsorship through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, a crucial component of the agency’s moon exploration initiatives.
It enables NASA to engage private firms for missions ferrying scientific instruments and equipment to the lunar surface, promoting entrepreneurship and innovation.
The Peregrine lander, the first spacecraft under the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, will carry five NASA instruments to the moon.
These include gauges to measure the lunar surface’s radiation environment and spectrometers to analyze material abundance.
The matter of ‘space burials’ raised concerns, notably from Buu Nygren, president of the Navajo Nation, who considers leaving human remains on the moon a “profound desecration” of a sacred celestial body.
John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic, expressed disappointment that these concerns were not raised earlier but affirmed the company’s commitment to finding an amicable resolution with the Navajo Nation.
If the Peregrine mission proceeds as planned on Monday, it will aim for a lunar touchdown on February 23, targeting the Sinus Viscositatis site, where ancient lava once flowed.
Cover Photo: Unsplash
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