First American Lunar Lander in More Than 50 Years Launched

( — Private companies are competing to make space deliveries for NASA and other space-faring groups after the successful launch of a lunar lander following a 50-year hiatus on lander usage within the United States. The lander is owned by Astrobotic Technology, a private company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, indicating a new space race between corporations seeking entry to the final frontier. Astrobotic Technology attached the lander to a Vulcan rocket, which helped the lander reach its planned flight path to circle the moon before returning to Earth in approximately a month.

Astrobotic Technology’s ultimate goal is to land the lunar lander on the moon before having the spacecraft take off and return to Earth. Only four countries have landed spacecraft on the moon, and if successful, the Pittsburgh company would be the first private company to land a spacecraft on the moon’s surface. Despite the head-start on other companies, Astrobotic Technology has a potential competitor in Houston known as Intuitive Machines, who could get a lunar lander to the moon quicker than the lander owned by the Pittsburgh company. Astrobotic’s CEO, John Thorton, addressed the successful takeoff, claiming that Astrobotic Technology’s lander is the first to take off, before saying another company could be the first to land on the moon.

Unfortunately, the mission was marred when engineers lost control of the craft, preventing the craft from being able to land on the moon itself. Engineers regained control, however, so parts of the mission are still proceeding.

Astrobotic Technology and Intuitive Machines received millions in funding from NASA, intended to encourage competition and allow each private organization to “scope out” the moon and deliver NASA equipment and other goods for potential customers. Astrobotic Technology’s lander, known as the Peregrine lander, cost around $108 million. The remarkable launch of the Peregrine lander is the first moon-landing effort since 1972, when Apollo 17 successfully landed on the moon, and its crew became the last NASA astronauts to walk on the moon’s surface.

NASA is revamping its lunar efforts with the Artemis program, which aims to have astronauts return to the moon within the next few years. The first mission under the Artemis program could take place this year and will be a “fly-around,” meaning the astronauts won’t land on the moon during the lunar effort.

NASA’s reinvigorated lunar efforts come as private companies begin aiming for the moon, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which plans to provide Intuitive Machines with the propulsion for a different lander. Intuitive Machine’s lander, known as the Nova-C, could reach the moon before Astrobotic Technology’s Peregrine due to its direct route to the moon’s surface. The Peregrine and Nova-C could reach the moon within hours of one another, raising doubts about which private company could land on the moon’s surface first.

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