US launches its first moon-bound lander since the Apollo 17 mission

 United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan Centaur, lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41d at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on January 8, 2024
The successful launch marks the maiden flight for the ULA’s new Vulcan Centaur rocket. | Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched its new Vulcan Centaur rocket from Cape Canaveral on Monday at 2:18AM ET, carrying a US-made moon lander with NASA science and research payloads onboard. The Peregrine lander is built by Pittsburgh-based private space tech startup Astrobotic and marks a US return to the moon for the first time in over 50 years.

The uncrewed Peregrine Mission One launch is the first of a series of missions to fly under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) scheme, an initiative that enables the agency to pay private companies to carry its scientific equipment into space. Astrobotic was paid $108 million — just a fraction of the $25.8 billion that NASA spent on the trailblazing Apollo program…

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