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Peregrine Malfunctions

A NASA-funded robotic lunar mission that would have returned the US to the moon's surface for the first time since 1972 appears to be in jeopardy due to a fuel leak that developed shortly after the private spacecraft's successful launch. 

The 202-foot-tall Vulcan Centaur rocket—developed by the United Launch Alliance—blasted off yesterday from Cape Canaveral, Florida, successfully sending the Peregrine moon lander—developed by Astrobotic Technology—on its way (see video; see photos). Roughly seven hours into the flight, Peregrine's propulsion system malfunctioned, depleting the spacecraft's propellant and preventing a solar panel from properly pointing toward the sun. Peregrine was carrying NASA scientific equipment and human remains from two commercial space burial companies. The lander was previously expected to reach the moon's surface Feb. 23. 

Peregrine was the first mission under NASA's 2018 Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative (see overview), which has awarded billions of dollars to private companies to help land their spacecraft on the moon. Houston-based Intuitive Machines is expected to launch its own lander with a SpaceX rocket next month.

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