NASA loses touch with Moon probe — Analysis

According to the US space agency, Tuesday’s communication issue occurred within one day after the probe was sent out from low earth orbit. NASA engineers hope to find a solution to the communication problem caused by the CAPSTONE probe losing contact. This will allow them to rescue an important mission that is crucial to returning to the Moon.

The Cislunar autonomous positioning system technology operations and navigation experiment (CAPSTONE probe) “experienced communications issues while in contact with the Deep Space Network,”NASA spokesperson Sarah Frazier spoke Tuesday. 

Spacecraft Team is “working to understand the cause and re-establish contact,”Frazier stated, adding that they had “good trajectory data” based on CAPSTONE’s previous contacts with the network. Frazier stated that the probe “has enough fuel to delay the initial post separation trajectory correction maneuver for several days,” if necessary.

On June 28, the probe, which is approximately 25kg (55 lb) in weight, was launched by New Zealand. The mission seemed to be going well as late as Monday, when CAPSTONE was boosted from the Earth’s orbit and into a ballistic lunar transfer trajectory. 

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NASA’s plan was to use CAPSTONE as a pathfinder for Gateway, a Moon-orbiting waystation for the Artemis program to land humans onto the lunar surface for the first time in decades. Near-rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) lies at exactly the balance point of the Earth and lunar gravity. “minimal energy to maintain,”It provides a clear line of sight to the Earth.

The orbit’s proximity to the lunar surface at times also means a spacecraft flying to and from the Moon will need less fuel, making it “an ideal staging area for missions to the Moon and beyond,”According to the US Space Agency. CAPSTONE was meant to “demonstrate the reliability of innovative spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation solutions as well as communication capabilities with Earth.”

Artemis was originally intended to launch a crew of humans on the Moon by 2024. But funding issues have delayed the program. NASA has not abandoned the pursuit of this goal, but they are still working towards it. They hope to land it in 2020. “first woman and first person of color”eventually on the Moon. Administrator Bill Nelson, a former Democrat senator from Florida, recently argued that the US must get to the Moon before China, so as to stop Beijing from claiming and weaponizing the Earth’s natural satellite.



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