After Peregrine and SLIM: LRO photographed the landing site of the next lunar mission

NASA has published images taken by the LRO spacecraft. They demonstrate the landing site of a private mission that will be launched to the Moon by Intuitive Machines. 

Lunar failures of 2024

In January, we saw two dramas related to lunar missions at once. Initially, Astrobotic launched its Peregrine spacecraft to the Moon. During the flight, it had a fuel leak, which made it impossible to achieve its goals. As a result, the probe burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Peregrine’s selfie before the rendezvous with the Earth. Source: Astrobotic

Just a day after the crash of Peregrine, the Japanese Aerospace Agency tried to carry out its first landing on the Moon. Unfortunately, at the moment of touching the surface, the SLIM probe tipped over. Because of this, its solar panels were not illuminated by the Sun, and it was unable to recharge the on-board battery. As a result, after running out of charge, SLIM went silent.

New lunar mission

Despite these failures, in less than a month we will be able to see a new launch to the moon. It is organized by Intuitive Machines. As part of the IM-1 mission, it will send the NOVA-C probe to the Moon. A Falcon 9 rocket will be used for the mission.

The place of the planned landing of NOVA-C is captured in images taken by the LRO spacecraft. It should be the 24-kilometer crater Malapert A, located in the southern polar region of the Moon. Not far from it is the so-called Malapert massif, which peak is considered as one of the possible landing sites of the Artemis III expedition.

There will be eleven cargoes on board Nova-C. Five are owned by NASA and paid for by a contract issued under the CLPS program. The rest are provided by various private customers — from Embry-Riddle Aviation University to the artist Jeff Koons.

The landing site of the NOVA-C probe. Source: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

At the moment, the launch of NOVA-C is scheduled for February 13. If all goes well, the moon landing attempt will take place a week after the probe leaves Earth. 

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