It appears the end has come for the troubled Peregrine lunar lander.
The Pittsburgh-based company announced via X (formerly Twitter) that Astrobotic lost contact with Peregrine around 3:50 PM EST (2050 GMT) on Thursday afternoon (January 18).
“While this indicates that the vehicle completed its controlled return over open waters in the South Pacific Ocean at 4:04 PM EDT, we await independent confirmation from government agencies,” the company said. Written in the update Which she posted on the social media site at around 8pm EST on Thursday (0100 GMT on Friday, January 19).
We’ll learn more on Friday, when Astrobotic hosts a conference call about Peregrine’s mission and its fate. You can watch the event, which begins at 1 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT), here on Space.com provided by NASA, or live via the space agency.
Related: The failure of the Peregrine lunar lander will not stop NASA’s ambitious commercial lunar program
Peregrine launched Jan. 8 on the maiden flight of United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan Centaur rocket. The Vulcan Centaur did its job well, but Peregrine suffered a serious malfunction shortly after being deployed from the rocket’s upper stage.
That problem was a fuel leak, which Astrobotic said was likely caused by a stuck valve, which in turn led to a ruptured oxidizer tank. But this is a preliminary diagnosis. We may get a tougher version during Friday’s press conference.
The leak doomed Peregrine’s chances of traveling to the Moon, which would have been historic: no private spacecraft had been able to successfully land on the Moon’s surface. But the probe has remained operational, powering all 10 of its power-demanding payloads and operating at its final limits for more than 10 days. (Peregrine also carried 10 other payloads that tested negative, including memorial capsules provided by Celestis and Elysium Space that contained human remains.)
Five of Peregrine’s payloads were NASA science instruments, which came aboard through the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS, program.
The Peregrine mission was the first CLPS effort to leave Earth, but another mission is about to take off: Nova-C, a lander built by Intuitive Machines in Houston, is scheduled to launch toward the moon aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket next month.