Astrobotics has finally given a glimpse of the craft that will carry science payloads on the surface of the moon† The company revealed the final version of its Peregrine Moon lander prior to its launch in the last quarter of the year. It’s a simple exterior design that looks like an upturned bowl, but that’d be enough to carry 24 missions, including 11 items from NASA, the Carnegie Mellon spacecraft, special shipping, and even “cultural messages” from Earth.
Peregrine falcons are just over six feet tall and can carry up to 100 kilograms (about 220 pounds on the ground). And most importantly for customers, it is relatively inexpensive – it costs $1.2 million per kilogram to carry payloads to the lunar surface ($300,000 to Earth orbit). This sounds expensive, but it’s a steal compared to the cost of launching the missiles. SpaceX now send $67 million per Falcon 9 launch, and that’s “only” it reaches Earth orbit.
The Astrobotic team has not yet finished incorporating payloads, conducting environmental testing, and shipping Peregrine to Cape Canaveral, where it will be launched aboard a ULA Vulcan Centaur rocket. However, payloads have already been integrated into flight platforms.
The machine must make history if and when it succeeded. Peregrine is expected to be the first US spacecraft to (properly) land on the Moon since then Apollo program is over. Previous missions such as Lunar Prospector, LCROSS, GRAIL and LADEE ended in intentional accidents. Astrobotic’s effort won’t be as important The landing of the crew of ArtemisBut it will help highlight humanity’s renewed interest in being on the Moon.
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