50 years after the last Apollo mission, the US will return to the moon on 25 January 2024.
The United States will try to land a craft on the Moon next month according to the company behind the venture.
American company, Astrobotic, will be the first private company to successfully touch down on the lunar surface.
CEO, John Thornton, explained that the aim is to carry NASA instruments to study the lunar environment.
This is in anticipation of NASA’s manned missions, named Artemis.
However, despite a lot of people being desperate to get to the moon – there’s a twist.
This time unlike the last, the lander named Peregrine will have nobody aboard.
A program called CLPS, started several years ago, seeing NASA commissioning US companies.
These organisations would be tasked with sending technologies to the lunar surface to conduct scientific experiments.
It’s hoped that these fixed-price contracts could enable a lunar economy via a new lower-cost transport service.
From there, it’s hoped NASA can establish a base on the moon.
Thornton made a statement on the mission at a press briefing in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, 29 November.
“One of the big challenges of what we’re attempting here is attempting a launch and landing on the surface Moon for a fraction of what it would otherwise cost,” he said.
“Only about half of the missions that have gone to the surface of the Moon have been successful.
“So it’s certainly a daunting challenge. I’m going to be terrified and thrilled all at once at every stage of this.”
The rocket from the ULA industrial group has been named Vulcan Centaur.
Vulcan Centaur’s inaugural flight is scheduled to take off on 24 December from Florida.
We will have to wait with baited breath for “a few days” for the probe to get into lunar orbit.
However, the landing attempt will be further down the line still.
Thornton explained that this is to ensure light conditions at the target location are right.
The probe’s descent will happen without human intervention, but will be monitored.
Japanese and Israeli private companies have both made unsuccessful attempts to land on the moon over the past few years.
Only the US, Russia, China and India have ever been successful.
In fact, India shared footage of their lunar rover ‘playfully frolicking’ on the moon’s south pole recently.
Other companies that have signed NASA contracts include Firefly Aerospace, Draper and Intuitive Machines.
“NASA leadership is aware of the risks and has accepted that some of these missions might not succeed,” said Chris Culbert, CLPS program manager.
“But even if every landing isn’t successful, CLPS already had an impact on the commercial infrastructure needed to establish a lunar economy.”