Science & Technology

Vulcan rocket to launch Monday with moon lander mission

Miami, Jan 7 (EFE).- The new Vulcan rocket will launch Monday from Florida on the first US commercial robotic mission to the moon (Commercial Lunar Payload Services), carrying cargo from NASA and other countries, including an “ambitious” Mexican mission with mini-bots to study the lunar surface.

Astrobiotic’s Peregrine Mission One will launch on United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) powerful new Vulcan Centaur rocket from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

When it reaches the satellite on its own, Peregrine will become the first US module to reach the lunar surface in more than 50 years.

Liftoff is scheduled for 2:18 a.m. Monday, and if it is delayed, there are launch windows next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, as well as Jan. 23, NASA said at a news conference.

The Vulcan will carry the Peregrine Lunar Lander, loaded with scientific instruments and experiments developed by NASA and institutions from seven countries, into a highly elliptical orbit more than 360,000 kilometers (223,693 miles) above Earth to intercept the Moon.

The new two-stage rocket will launch with two payloads: Peregrine and another completely independent payload containing DNA samples of three former US presidents George Washington, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, according to Celestis Memorial Spaceflights, a company specializing in space memorials.

Also included are the remains and DNA samples of Gene Roddenberry and his wife Majel, both creators of “Star Trek,” as well as actors from the mythical television series such as Nichelle Nichols, DeForest Kelley, and James Doohan, and Douglas Trumbull, creator of special effects in films like “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

In the case of Peregrine, Mexico will carry five “autonomous microrobots” developed by the Space Instrumentation Laboratory of the Institute of Nuclear Sciences (LINX-ICN) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM in Spanish).

They are explorers about 12 centimeters in diameter and weighing less than 60 grams that are part of the Colmena Project, the country’s first lunar project.

Each of the robots has wheels, sensors, and onboard computers that will allow them to explore the moon and carry out space mining.

According to UNAM, the dimensions of these robots will place them just a few centimeters from the surface of the lunar regolith, dust formed by extremely fine, irregular and abrasive grains.

“Their study will make it possible to analyze the feasibility of building structures on planetary surfaces using swarms of self-organized robots,” says the Mexican university.

The Mexican Space Agency (AEM in Spanish) has pointed out that this project will make history and is the first of its kind in Latin America.

In the case of NASA’s payload, the goal is to locate water molecules on the moon, measure radiation and gases around the lander, and evaluate the lunar exosphere, a thin layer of gases on the moon’s surface.

These measurements will improve understanding of how solar radiation interacts with the lunar surface, NASA said.

“The Moon is a rich destination for scientific discovery. Studying and sampling the lunar environment will help NASA unravel some of the greatest mysteries of our solar system for the benefit of all,” said Nicola Fox, associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. EFE


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