Belgium to the Moon

 Belgium to the Moon

Belgium, the country famous for beer, chocolate, and waffles is going to the moon!

Astrobotic is a Lunar delivery company that offers to fly items into space for businesses, governments and universities. Through the Astrobotic and DHL “Moonbox” programme, Belgium will send a small keepsake to the Moon as part of the first commercial lunar landing, set for later this year.

A small “time capsule”, a nickel wafer, micro-etched with photos and text created in Belgium will be among the payloads toted to the Moon on this first mission by Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander. The data on this nickel wafer will be preserved for perhaps billions of years on the Lunar surface.

Probably the world’s smallest time capsule

​A small nickel wafer, micro-etched with a new “Nanofiche” technology will be sent from Belgium to the Moon, on board Astrobotic’s Mission One. The wafer is designed by a Belgian and manufactured by Stamper Tech. The Nanofiche is a new analogue archival preservation media that overcomes the limitations of existing technologies. Unlike other micro engraving technologies, nickel-based Nanofiche never degrades and never has to be replaced. Anything on the Moon must survive diurnal cycles of boiling to sub-zero temperatures, as well as massive doses of radiation: SD cards or USB sticks would be destroyed in a month. Nickel does not oxidize, has no half-life, and can withstand electromagnetic radiation, high heat, extreme cold, exposure to the elements, microbes (on the Moon?), and many types of chemicals, for thousands of years or longer on the Moon.

Belgium 2 the Moon Nanofiche (image: Belgium 2 the Moon)

So what is on this nickel fiche?

  • Lots of photos,
  • Stories of the designer,
  • Memories made in Belgium.

It is probably the smallest ever time capsule with a Belgian touch!

How does the Astrobotic/DHL Moonbox service work?

​In collaboration with Astrobotic, DHL offers a MoonBox service that allows people to send keepsakes to the lunar surface. Customers can order their DHL MoonBox and DHL will be in charge of the outbound delivery and transport to Astrobotic in Pittsburgh, where the packages will be stored for safekeeping until the first lunar mission. All of the Moon Capsules on a flight will be integrated into a single Moon Pod on the Peregrine lunar lander.

DHL, the Official Logistics Provider to the Moon

DHL is joining Astrobotic on this ground-breaking journey, together with Airbus. As the mission’s Official Logistics Provider to the Moon, DHL aims to leverage its position as the world’s leading logistics company and use its global network and local expertise to handle the complete ground logistics of international payloads to the launch site. The DHL lunar logistics services will also manage the safe and reliable transport of the precious lunar lander. With Astrobotic and Airbus, DHL aims to open a new age in human history – and ultimately the Moon to everyone, everywhere.

DHL Moonbox (image: Belgium 2 the Moon)

How will Astrobotic bring its payloads to the Moon?

Astrobotic built a Lunar lander called “Peregrine”. The Peregrine lander will fly 35 kilograms of customer payloads on its first mission to the Moon, with the option to upgrade to 265 kilograms on future missions. A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan rocket will send Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander on its way to the Moon. The Peregrine lander then precisely and safely delivers payloads into lunar orbit and the Lunar surface. Payloads can be mounted above or below the decks, inside or outside of enclosures, and can remain attached or deployed independently, according to customer needs.

Why use a nickel data carrier to store the time capsule?

Astrobotic’s Peregrine Mission One will operate for about eight days on the Lunar surface, before the Lunar hits with extreme cold temperatures, down to minus 180 degrees. Normal electronics can not survive these extreme temperatures. One of the ways to safely store data on the surface of the Moon is the Nanofiche. Text and images will be etched by laser onto thin sheets of nickel, which should be able to endure the harsh conditions of the moon.

Other payloads on Peregrine Mission One

Astrobotic’s Peregrine Mission One (PM1) is poised to be the first commercial mission to land on another planetary body. With this flight, Astrobotic is opening the door to the next phase of space science, exploration, and commerce on the Moon and beyond. Peregrine will carry a diverse suite of scientific instruments, technologies, mementos, and other payloads from six different countries, dozens of science teams, and hundreds of individuals.

Astrobotic Peregrine Mission One payloads (click the image to see payload details on the Astrobotic website)

Latest update: Peregrine is ready for launch!

Astrobotic announced yesterday (25 January 2023) that its Peregrine lunar lander has successfully completed its entire flight acceptance campaign. Peregrine is now ready to be shipped to Cape Canaveral, Florida when Astrobotic’s rocket provider, United Launch Alliance (ULA), gives the green light to receive it.

”Peregrine Mission One’s (PM1) flight acceptance campaign was completed on schedule and exceeded expectations. These tests ultimately proved the quality of Peregrine’s design and workmanship over the full assembly and integration campaign. Everyone worked diligently, even through holidays, for this incredible achievement,” says Sharad Bhaskaran, Astrobotic’s PM1 Mission Director.

The Peregrine lander flight model in the thermal vacuum chamber (image: Astrobotic)

The final hurdle, thermal-vacuum (TVAC) testing, proved that Peregrine can survive and operate in the thermal and vacuum conditions of space. The spacecraft was subjected to extreme hot and cold temperatures in the thermal vacuum chamber to simulate conditions during its mission. All spacecraft components were functionally tested as well to demonstrate flight-like operations.

Peregrine will be at Astrobotic headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on public display beginning this Thursday, January 26. Visitors can visit the conjoining Moonshot Museum to catch a glimpse of the spacecraft until it is prepped for shipment to Cape Canaveral, Florida for its journey to the Moon!

Awaiting the ULA Vulcan launch date

There is no confirmed launch date yet, but the latest updates talk about the first quarter of 2023… The latest updates on the maiden ULA Vulcan launch can be followed on the official countdown page here.

Remco Timmermans

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