A crippling fuel leak has forced a US company to give up on landing a spacecraft on the moon.
Astrobotic Technology’s lander began losing fuel soon after Monday’s launch, possibly because of a ruptured tank. The spacecraft also encountered problems keeping its solar panel pointing towards the sun and generating solar power.
“Given the propellant leak, there is, unfortunately, no chance of a soft landing on the moon,” Astrobotic said in a statement.
Astrobotic had been targeting a lunar landing on February 23 after a roundabout, fuel-efficient flight to the moon.
It could have been the first US moon landing in more than 50 years, and the first by a private company.
A second lander from a Houston company is due to launch next month.
Only four countries have pulled off a successful moon landing.
The company said the new goal was to keep the lander operating as long as possible in space to learn as much as possible for its next mission a year or so from now.
Flight controllers managed to keep the spacecraft pointing toward the sun and its battery fully charged, with another 40 hours of operations expected.
The Pittsburgh-based company did not elaborate on why the Peregrine lander’s propellant system failed just hours into the flight.
Nasa paid Astrobotic 108 million dollars (£85 million) to fly its experiments to the moon on this mission, part of the agency’s commercial lunar programme.
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