Miami, Jan 8 (EFE).- United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched its new rocket, Vulcan Centaur, on Monday from Florida with the Peregrine lander loaded with NASA’s instruments to analyze the surface of the Moon.
The takeoff occurred at 2.20am local time (7.20am GMT) from Space Launch Complex 41 of the Cape Canaveral Space Force in central Florida.
Peregrine is expected to be the first American module to reach the lunar surface in over 50 years.
In addition to NASA’s instruments, the Vulcan also carries DNA samples of former American presidents and cremated remains of actors from the television series Star Trek for the private company Celestis which offers memorial spaceflights.
The president and CEO of ULA, Tory Bruno wrote “I’m feeling good,” on X (formerly Twitter) after the launch.
In the case of the NASA shipment, this is the first commercial robotic mission of the US agency that will reach the Moon.
The Vulcan carries the Peregrine lunar lander from Astrobotic, which is scheduled to land on the far side of the moon known as Sinus Viscositatis, or Bay of Stickiness, on Feb. 23.
NASA will pay Astrobotic $108 million to carry out five experiments there, within the framework of the CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) program, whose objective is to lower the cost of sending objects to the lunar surface.
In addition to NASA, the Peregrine lunar module carries scientific instruments from seven countries, including a Mexican mission with tiny robots to study the lunar surface.
The robots have been developed by the Institute of Nuclear Sciences, of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
These are explorers about 12 centimeters in diameter and weighing less than 60 grams that are part of the Colmena project, the first lunar mission of this country.
Each of these robots has wheels, sensors, and onboard computers that would allow them for lunar exploration and space mining.
According to UNAM, the dimensions of these robots will place them a few centimeters from the surface of the lunar regolith, dust made up of extremely fine, irregular and abrasive grains.
The maiden voyage of ULA’s Vulcan Centaur was scheduled for Dec. 24 but was postponed due to delays in the fuel loading test.
In December, the general launch rehearsal, known as ‘wet dress rehearsal’, took longer than expected and could not be completed on time.
ULA, founded in 2006, has launched several top-secret military loads for the US Government.
Its rockets were, until now, too expensive for most commercial customers. With Vulcan, ULA seeks a greater share of the commercial market.
The rocket carried ashes and DNA samples of celebrities and prominent figures, including the US presidents George Washington, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, according to Celestis.
Also, the remains and DNA samples of Gene Roddenberry and his wife, Majel Barrett, both creators of Star Trek and actors such as Nichelle Nichols, DeForest Kelley and James Doohan, as well as Douglas Trumbull, creator of special effects in films such as ‘2001, Odyssey of the Space’. EFE