US-based Astrobotic Technology’s Peregrine lunar lander on its way to the Moon has suffered “critical” fuel loss.

The anomaly, evident in the first image snapped in space by the lander, poses a significant risk to the historic mission that aimed to bring the US back to the lunar terrain after about 50 years.

The US has not attempted a moon landing since Apollo 17 in December 1972.

On January 8, the lander lifted off aboard United Launch Alliance’s brand new rocket Vulcan Centaur at 2:18 a.m. EST (7:18 GMT), from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

All systems on the lander including the primary command data unit, thermal, propulsion and power controllers all powered on and performed well.

However, after entering a fully operational state, the lander suffered an “anomaly, which prevented Astrobiotic from achieving stable sun-pointing orientation” the company wrote on X.com.

“Unfortunately, it appears the failure within the propulsion system is causing a critical loss of propellant. The team is working to try and stabilize this loss, but given the situation, we have prioritized maximizing the science and data we can capture. We are currently assessing what alternative mission profiles may be feasible at this time,” the Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic added.

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This was seen in the first image of Peregrine in space.

The image was taken by the camera mounted atop a payload deck and shows Multi-Layer Insulation (MLI) in the foreground.

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“The disturbance of the MLI is the first visual clue that aligns with our telemetry data pointing to a propulsion system anomaly,” the company said.

While the anomaly caused a “critical loss of propellant,” the mission team managed to get the lander’s battery fully charged, “and we are using Peregrine’s existing power to perform as many payload and spacecraft operations as possible,” the company added.

Peregrine is Astrobotic’s first lander mission, and the team plans to become the first commercial company to successfully land a spacecraft on the lunar surface.

The lander carries a total of 20 payloads, or cargo, including 5 from NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.

It aims to land on the Moon on February 23 and spend approximately 10 days gathering valuable scientific data studying Earth’s nearest neighbor and helping pave the way for the first woman and first person of color to explore the Moon under Artemis.