Artistic illustration of Blue Moon.
Leading the return of #x27;America on the surface of the Moon, for the first time since Apollo, is a huge honor, Astrobotic boss John Thornton said at a press conference on Friday. However, he said he was aware of the risks of failure.
The targeted landing site for the craft is located on the visible side of the Moon, near mysterious domes formed by lava but which scientists struggle to explain.
Thanks to the instruments shipped, NASA must study the composition of the surface, as well as the radiation.
Studying the lunar environment should in particular make it possible to prepare for the return of astronauts to the Moon, which NASA is planning with its Artemis program.
But NASA is not the only customer on board, and the mission has also caused controversy: Among the private customer cargoes transported are the ashes or DNA of dozens of people, including those of the creator of the famous science fiction television series Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry. A partnership with the Celestis company, specializing in commemorative space flights.
Sending these ashes to the Moon sparked the anger of the Navajo Native American tribe, which denounced the desecration of a place sacred to many Native American cultures, without however obtaining the postponement of the launch.
The launch inaugurated a series of missions supported by the American space agency, eager to encourage the development of a true lunar economy.
A failure of the mission would not fail to raise questions about this new strategy of NASA, which wishes to rely partly on the private sector for its lunar ambitions.
It has signed a contract with several companies, including Astrobotic, to send scientific equipment to the Moon. The program, called CLPS, provides companies with crucial financing.
Another selected company, Intuitive Machines, is also scheduled to take off for the Moon in mid-February with a SpaceX rocket.
This should allow NASA to make the trip more often, more quickly and for less, explained Joel Kearns, top responsible within the space agency.
To date, only the United States, the Soviet Union, China and India have succeeded in landing a device on the Moon.
A mission from the Japanese space agency (Jaxa) must also attempt to land on the moon in about two weeks. Russia, for its part, spectacularly missed a moon landing this summer.