A British schoolgirl who is passionate about space was chosen to contribute to a time capsule headed for the lunar surface—on the first US commercial launch to the Moon.
The Vulcan Centaur rocket blasted off in Florida Monday and the 10-year-old secured the spot on the voyage after catching the eye of space bosses with her own backyard rocket launch.
Elizabeth Norman from Leicester, England made a model of the Vulcan Centaur and launched it 30-ft into the air in her garden a few years ago.
She then uploaded a video to Twitter @AstroLizsLab where it was seen by senior staff at the United Launch Alliance (ULA)—a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin behind the Vulcan Centaur rocket.
It successfully launched from Cape Canaveral at 7:18 carrying the Peregrine lunar lander, with Elizabeth watching live with her mom, dad, and brother, counting down to the big moment.
“Go Vulcan! Go Peregrine! Go Astro Liz!” Elizabeth shouted as ULA Mission Control commenced the launch countdown.
“It’s such a privilege to experience Elizabeth’s payload on its way to the Moon,” said her father Steve.
The primary payload of this mission is the Peregrine lunar lander—developed by Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic—and it was successfully deployed 50 minutes after liftoff following two burns of the Centaur upper stages.
Of the 20 payloads that Peregrine seeks to land on the moon, five are NASA science instruments. The other 15 come from a range of customers, with a charge of $1.2 million per kg. But ULA also offered to take something belonging to ‘Astro Liz’.
Inside her payload—part of the first ever lunar ‘time capsule’—Elizabeth placed a sticker saying ‘Astro Liz’, the name of her blog and social media pages, and a message for her brother.
The lander reached lunar orbit 225,000 miles from Earth and is expected to make a hard landing on the moon near the Gruitheisen Domes scheduled for February 23. However, an unexpected challenge arose post-launch, and the complication may pose a threat to the spacecraft’s ability to land on the moon. The team should learn more soon.
Elizabeth’s passion for space took off after watching coverage of NASA’s Perseverance Rover’s flight to Mars in July 2020.
She threw herself into learning all about space—and has always got multiple science experiments going. She even started a science-themed YouTube channel in July 2020, to upload educational videos to get other kids passionate about space.
But things really kicked off for the budding astronaut after she decided to make a model of the ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rocket out of cardboard, which caught the eye of Tory Bruno, the CEO of ULA.
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He watched the launch of her 7-foot cardboard version of the rocket sent to the Moon, as it sailed 30ft into the air, impressing Elizabeth’s neighbors.
He was so impressed, he reached out and asked if she could be part of the real launch.
“We are overwhelmingly grateful to Astrobotic for providing the opportunity for Elizabeth to launch her space dream and send her very own payload to the moon,” said her mom Jennifer Norman. “This is not only a chance for her to achieve her mission but also to show other young people that a future in space is within their grasp and big adventures can start at any age.”
“None of us, including her, could ever have imagined that her dream would take off so rapidly. We can’t even put it into words because it’s so surreal that it’s actually happened.”
Astro Liz tweeted: “Big hug, Peregrine! I’m with you to the end and tonight my hometown of Leicester celebrates the Astrobotic mission, that of ULA and the incredible teams that worked so hard to get us this far! Love from Liz.”
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