The countdown is on for the launch of a privately built lunar lander on a quest to become the first commercial mission to successfully touch down on the moon.
The “Peregrine” lander, developed by a Pittsburgh-based company called Astrobotic, is scheduled to launch into space on Monday at 2:18 a.m. ET. The uncrewed craft will lift off atop the United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan Centaur rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
NASA said Friday that there is currently an 85% chance of favorable weather conditions for launch early Monday.
If all goes according to plan, the Peregrine mission could notch several historic firsts: The flight marks the debut launch of the next-generation Vulcan Centaur booster; and, if successful, Astrobotic could become the first private company to achieve a controlled, or “soft,” landing on the moon.
A successful touchdown would be a major milestone for the still-nascent commercial space industry, further opening up access to the cosmos beyond just governments and militaries to include more private enterprises. Only four countries’ space agencies — the United States’, the former Soviet Union’s, China’s and India’s — have pulled off a lunar landing, and so far, no commercial company has followed suit.
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