We Choose To Go To The Moon

Peregrine Logo


In July 2019, the whole world celebrated the 50th anniversary of the humans landing on the Moon.  One way we celebrated as a family was to attend the event organized by the Smithsonian Museum on the National Mall.  The story of the Apollo missions, including a depiction of a Saturn V launch was projected onto the Washington Monument.   It was an impressive multimedia usage of the monument and surrounding architecture.

Apollo celebration
At the National Mall celebration of the Moon landing.

There were also many films and documentaries that we enjoyed as part of this celebration.  One of these was "First Man".  One scene in particular stood out for me, and it involved Armstrong's  daughter Karen, who died at a young age.  The movie has a scene that shows Armstrong leaving behind on the Moon a bracelet of hers.  It struck me as such a unique privilege of an Apollo astronaut: to be able to leave something personal behind on the Moon.  Others left behind photographs and similar mementos.  

Karen's bracelet
Screen snap from Youtube video with the scene about Karen's Bracelet.

The MoonRanger Project

In November 2019, I received a request to participate in a review to critique the design of the MoonRanger project by Astrobotics.  This lunar mission is being done in cooperation with the Carnegie Mellon University, and consists of the Peregrine lander and the MoonRanger rover to test pioneering autonomy on the Moon.  When my daughter Stephanie was a student, she assisted with the design and construction of a precursor robotic rover, called "Andy".  Before Stephanie left the team, I met them and spoke to them for a few hours about space electronics design and construction.

Prior to this, I had reviewed many other projects, both inside and outside of NASA, and I expected this one to be another one and not particularly unusual.  However, during the MoonRanger review process I became aware of an exciting service they were offering as part of this mission.  This was the ability to (for a fee) send along a payload of material that would be left behind permanently on the Moon on the Peregrine Lander.  This service was called the "DHL Moonbox".  It sounded very exciting to me, and I decided to participate.

The first thing I had to decide on was what to send to the Moon.  It is well known that a single strand of hair contains the complete DNA of a person, and is stable enough to last at least thousands of years under the right conditions.  This form of tissue would be a great proxy to us.  At the end of this, we can literally say that part of us is on the Moon.  In addition, to represent our origins, I decided to include a small sample of sand or soil from three locations.  The first would be the beach of Aruba, which represents the island and its most well-known asset.  The second would be a sample of soil from my Mom's house in Aruba, to represent our family's origins.  Finally, I would include a small sample of the red Maryland clay soil, to represent where we currently live.

The purpose of sending a small token from Aruba to the Moon is two fold:

The Sampling Process

Sampling of the Aruban beach sand.  This sample taken near the
Aruba Beach Club where we spent many summers as a family, and
continue to be owner/members.

A sample from Mom's garden in Oranjestad, Aruba

Samples Collected
This is the collection of samples.  You can easily see the
Beach Sand (white), Aruba soil (black), and Maryland Clay (brown/red).

This is the nice little box to house the samples

Sample holder
The certificate showing the landing site is Lacus Mortis at 45N 27E.
The small hexagon near the bottom of the panel is the sample well our
item needs to fit into.

First I added a layer of our hair samples at the bottom of the well, and then
the three soil samples in separate corners.  You can tell the sample type
from the colors.  Top: Aruba soil, Bottom right:
Beach sand, and Bottom left: Maryland clay.

Official certificate from DHL Moonbox shipping service confirming our participation.
We shipped the sample on 02/02/2020.

February 2020
We received an invitation in our work email to "Walk on the Moon"

The above event was the unveiling of a large room-sized print of the map of the Moon.  It allowed you to go and Walk on the Moon.  We decided to go to find the landing site for this mission.

This is the print of the Moon map.  On the bottom is the equatorial belt.  The polar caps are behind Stephanie.  Visitors were allowed to put yellow notes on the Moon map.

Our note at the landing site of this mission.  I was a little surprised no one else
had a note here.

on the moonon the moon

March 2020
I participated in the second review of the MoonRanger project by telecon.

September 2020
Astrobotic successfully completes Peregrine Lunar Lander Structural model testing.  This lander will hold our sample submission for landing on the Moon.

Structural model test (image from here)

March 2021
Logo released.  See top of this page.  Part of the release reads:

Astrobotic’s Peregrine Mission One (PM1) is set to be the first US lander (and first commercial lunar lander) to touch down on the Moon since the Apollo missions more than 50 years ago. In anticipation of Peregrine’s launch into space later this year, Astrobotic has released a commemorative mission patch filled with some meaningful Easter (or more appropriately, peregrine) eggs.

July 2021
MoonRanger (the rover) passed its final major review by NASA and is now in the flight fabrication phase.  Press release.

October 2021
Email update from the team shows hardware being assembled.

Peregrine deck
CMU's MoonArk integrated onto the lander deck.

“As we begin assembly, integration, and test of our Peregrine lunar lander, receipt of critical flight components like the flight battery, helium tanks, and propellant tanks keep our program on track for a mid-2022 launch," says Sharad Bhaskaran, Astrobotic’s Peregrine Mission One Director (email from Peregrine team).

January 2022
One secondary aspect of this project is the education of the preservation of the natural resources of Aruba.  One such is the characteristic pure white sand beaches that we have.  It is  forbidden by law to export any of the sand or shells found on the island.  In order to comply with this law, I met with the Minister of Justice, Mr Rocco Tjon to receive a permit to export 20 grams of sand for this project.  The permit was signed not just by him, but also the Prime Minister of Aruba, Ms Evelyn Wever-Croes.

Minister of Justice Rocco Tjon
Meeting on 1/5/2021 with Min Justice Rocco Tjon to obtain the permit.
post by Prime Minister

April 2022
In an event streamed live, the Peregrine Lander was revealed in a ceremony with local elected officials and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson along with other NASA HQ officials.

From the press release:

Also present in the cleanroom were the 24 payloads that Peregrine will be delivering to the lunar surface. These include scientific instruments from three national space agencies – including 11 from NASA alone – a rover from Carnegie Mellon University, several payloads from commercial companies, and cultural messages from individuals around the Earth. The payloads are already integrated onto Peregrine’s flight decks, which are awaiting installation on the greater lander. Once Peregrine’s integration is complete, it will head to spacecraft environmental testing, before being shipped to Cape Canaveral in Florida to begin its final preparations for launch in Q4 2022.

Reveal of Peregrine Lander
Peregrine in the Astrobotic clean room being built (photo by Astrobotic).

Reveal of Peregrine Lander

At the reveal from left to right: Congressman Matt Cartwright, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, NASA Science Associate Administrator Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, John Thornton Astrobotic CEO, Jim Reuter NASA Space Technology Associate Administrator, Justine Kasznica Founding Board Chair of the Keystone Space Collaborative (picture from Astrobotic)

Press release about this reveal event

July 2022
Peregrine was featured in an article in Time Magazine.

Graphic with Peregrine QR
Graphic from the article in Time Magazine

Payloads Loaded
Peregrine bus with payloads integrated.

August 2022
I received an update from Astrobotic with photographs of our payload being readied for installation onto the lander.

Moon Box
This is the certificate of the shipment to the Moon via the Moon Box program.
You can see the samples in the small black hexagon.

Moon Box
The Moon Box being integrated into its pod for installation onto the Lander.

Facebook post about this update.

Article on following the above post

Shipment to Environmental Test Facility
On the same day as the launch of Artemis I to the Moon, Astrobotic issued this press release showing the Peregrine spacecraft being readied for shipment.

Peregrine leaving
Image from Astrobotic web site of Peregrine's
 final preparations (Nov 2022)

This interesting article from Reuters shows that this is the debut of the Vulcan rocket.  This line is priced at about $110 million per launch.  When successful it will offer an American made alternative to the Russian engines commonly used in the industry.  The delay from end of 2022 was at the request of Astrobotic.

December 2022 - Vibe Test
In mid December, this press article shows the Mass Properties and Vibe Test.  The former weighs the vehicle and determines the location of the Center of Mass and various inertial properties.  These are needed for the attitude control system.  The second test is to shake the hardware to test its strength for withstanding launch.

Vibe test
Peregrine on the Vibe Table.  Just as we do at Goddard, they are
conducting a test here to see if the spacecraft can withstand
the launch vibration.

January 2023 - Ready to ship to the Cape
This update indicates the flight hardware is ready to ship.  In addition, an update from ULA shows the rocket is progressing well with a test fire planned later this month.

Ready to ship
Team in front of TVac chamber.  Article.

Vulcan Rocket
Vulcan rocket is vertical and prepped for test fire!  From Live Update Page.

The rocket stack used for our launch will be a Vulcan booster powered by two BE-4 engines from Blue Origin, and the upper stage will be a Centaur V.  These are new motors that run on Methane (LNG), and have more thrust that the Space Shuttle Main Engines.  Once operational, they will replace the ones that are normally bought from the Russians, and that will be very good in these uncertain political times.

First ever Vulcan shipped to the Cape (Jan 2023)

March 2023 - First Stage (Booster) Tanking Test
The tanking system of this brand new rocket design was tested at launch pad LC41 and described in this update.  A nice video summarizing the tests and a glance at the payloads is here.

April 2023 - Upper Stage Tank Test

This video shows a explosion during a test of the Centaur V upper stage tank.  This may be cause for delay.  The launch window will be in monthly intervals due to the Lunar flight trajectory.  Indeed in early May, we received an email update that launch would be delayed from the May 2023 date.

June 2023 - BE-4 Test Fire
On June 7 2023, the twin BE-4 engines running on Methane were test fired successfully on the launch pad.  This is clearly an important milestone to launch.  In the next step, I would expect to next hear that Astrobotic can ship Peregrine to the Cape for launch.

Test Fire on the pad
For the video click here. article on this event.

October 26 2023 - Installing the Booster Stage
ULA posted this sequence on their Twitter page to show the Booster with the twin BE-4 engines being raised onto the pad.

Booster with BE-4 engines
Sequence made using of the
Booster being raised onto the pad.

October 27 2023 - Shipping to the Cape
After a long delay due to the upper stage issue on the Centaur, the Peregrine spacecraft was loaded onto a truck and shipped to the Kennedy Space Center.

Shipping to the Cape
I can really relate to this video on Twitter.  Loading and shipping to the Cape.

Peregrine 1 in Astrotech's cleanroom
Arrival at Astrotech's cleanroom.  Full Story.

Video of Peregrine 1 having its NASA logo applied (Nov 2023).

November 2023
We saw the booster being raised onto the pad in the image above, and ULA released an image of the Centaur V upper stage this month.  It gets stacked on top of the booster, and then Peregrine will be stacked on top of that.  At the pad, the booster will be ignited first, and carry the whole stack aloft.  It will then be dropped, and the upper stage takes over pushing Peregrine to the Moon.

Centaur V upper stage
Centaur V upper stage.  Image from here.

In this same month, Astrobotic sent out invites for the launch party.  It also included a link to the info packet.  Note that the Aruba sand will be sent via the Moonbox program.  The landing spot has been changed from Lacus Mortis to "Gruithuisen Domes".  This area was named after the German astronomer Franz von Gruithuisen.

Launch Party
Invites were sent out for the Launch Viewing

Centaur V stack operation
Centaur V uppper stage being stacked on top of the Vulcan booster. 
This is event is known as LVOS.  Launch Vehicle on Stand.
Image from here

Also this month, NASA announced that two Goddard-led development teams would fly on Peregrine.  These are the Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA) and Peregrine Ion-Trap Mass Spectrometer (PITMS).  For more information, see here

December 2023
Early in this month, they performed a Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR).  This is where the rocket is tanked to check for leaks.  As you can see here with the tweet from Tory Bruno (ULA President) it all went well and launch date is now set for Jan 8, 2024.

Launch date set
Tweet announcing the launch date of Jan 8 2024.

Later this same month, Astrobotics sent out an update showing the spacecraft mounted onto the payload adapter.  The update also disclosed that the anticipated landing date on the Moon will be February 23, 2024.  This payload adapter is custom made for this spacecraft so that it can be bolted onto the Centaur V upper stage.

Pre Encapsulation of Peregrine
Spacecraft mounted onto its adapter.  Note the DHL logo.
Photo by ULA.

Story on

This video released December 22, 2023 shows the entire rocket complete and ready for launch.

Full stack on the pad
Here you see Peregrine encapsulated in its fairing being
stacked onto upper stage.


Launch on the new Vulcan booster occurred flawlessly on 1/8/2024.

Launch was successful on 1/8/2024 in the early morning East Coast time.  I saw it online from my Mom's house in Aruba.  Peregrine separated about one hour after launch and I went back to sleep.  Upon waking I learned of the bad news that we had experienced a propulsion anomaly and that a soft landing on the Moon was not going to occur.

One of the frequent updates from Astrobotic.  They occurred at least once per day.

First on-orbit image from Astrobotic shows the billowed MLI.

Video of launch on Youtube

Interview with Tito Lacle on

January 2024

Mid January we were provided a grim update that the mission would never reach the Moon after all.


Original Trajectory
The original trajectory had us going around the Earth for one orbit.

Anticipated Trajectory
With the prop system damaged, we were no longer able
to have the speed needed to transition to a lunar intercept.

Re entry for Peregrine
Peregrine's mission ended 1/18/2024 after ten days in space.  It was not the ending I was hoping for.  Although we made it out to Lunar distance, we did came all the way back to end back up on Earth.


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(c) 2023 Edward Cheung, all rights reserved.