Memorial Spaceflights

Astrobotic: The Company Flying Celestis to the Moon


The Peregrine Mission One logo. Image Credit: Astrobotic

The Celestis Tranquility Flight will fly to the Moon on Astrobotic’s Peregrine Mission One, slated to be the first American spacecraft to land on the Moon since Apollo. Founded in 2007 and based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Astrobotic grew out of Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics laboratory. Astrobotic, a former Google Lunar X-Prize competitor, is a space robotics company that, quoting from its website, provides “end-to-end delivery services for payloads to the Moon” and specializes, “… in making space missions feasible and more affordable for science, exploration, and commerce.” Its clients include companies, governments, universities, non-profits, and individuals. For example, Peregrine Mission One will carry not only the Celestis Tranquility Flight, but also payloads for NASA, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Hungary and Mexico. Astrobotic has more than 50 prior and ongoing NASA and commercial technology contracts and a corporate sponsorship with DHL.

Astrobotic’s Mission Control Center, where all payloads on board Peregrine Mission One will be operated from, is located in the company's 47,000 square foot complex in Pittsburgh. The mission’s payloads include the Tranquility Flight, several lunar rovers, experiments from NASA and various countries, archives, and even a time capsule. 

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Astrobotic has three lunar missions beginning with Peregrine Mission One. The Peregrine lunar lander will land in Lacus Mortis, the northeastern region of the lunar surface. Astrobotic is leading the development of the MoonRanger rover in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University. MoonRanger will be delivered to the Moon through NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program and will measure water ice at the Moon’s south pole. Astrobotic’s Griffin Lander – a larger lander than Peregrine – will deliver a NASA rover called the “Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover” (VIPER) to the south lunar pole and will also search for water ice.

Astrobotic CEO John Thornton

Astrobotic CEO John Thornton. Image Credit: Astrobotic

Astrobotic’s workforce of more than 130 employees is led by an impressive, experienced leadership team, including:
• John Thornton, CEO, who “… has grown Astrobotic’s business of delivering affordable space robotics technology and planetary missions by attracting technology contracts, equity investment, and payload customers.” It has been under his leadership that Astrobotic has booked its three upcoming lunar missions. A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, Thornton led the development at Carnegie Mellon of “Scarab, a NASA concept rover for lunar drilling,” and founded the university’s Advanced Composites Lab.
• Andrew Jones, a mechanical engineer, is Astrobotic’s Director of Planetary Landers. He has worked in aerospace for over 30 years, including work at Virgin Galactic, Bombardier Aerospace and Westland Helicopters. Jones "has worked on almost every aircraft type, including rotorcraft, fixed wing and rockets, and across all life-cycle phases from development to in-service."
• Sharad Bhaskaran, Mission Director, is leading Peregrine Mission One. Prior to joining Astrobotic, Bhaskaran worked for Lockheed Martin for 25 years, working on the space shuttle, the International Space Station, and payloads for the Mir space station.
Celestis is proud to be on board Astrobotic’s first lunar mission as we fulfill the spaceflight dreams of Tranquility Flight participants.

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