NASA has lost contact with a multi-million dollar probe after about a week in space.
The spacecraft is testing an orbital path that could suit a permanent lunar space station.
The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) is a 55-pound satellite that was sent to space on June 28 from a launch site in New Zealand.
Once in off-world, CAPSTONE puttered around lower Earth orbit before detaching from its rocket and setting course for the Moon.
Nasa reported that they have since lost communication with the $32.7million dollar satellite.
"The spacecraft team currently is working to understand the cause and re-establish contact," Nasa wrote in a July 5 blog post.
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The CAPSTONE satellite was slated to orbit the Moon for six months -The Independent noted it is not clear how unstable the mission's future is.
The crown-shaped orbit was selected for testing because it uses the gravities of Earth and the Moon, minimizing the need for fuel.
"Researchers expect this orbit to be a gravitational sweet spot in space – where the pull of gravity from Earth and the Moon interact to allow for a nearly stable orbit – allowing physics to do most of the work of keeping a spacecraft in lunar orbit," a mission overview guide said.
Nasa's blog post says the mission has enough fuel to support itself while engineers work to reestablish a connection.
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If the CAPSTONE satellite comes back online and validates the conditions of this orbit, it'll show great promise as the future flight path of Gateway.
Gateway is Nasa's ambitious plan to deploy a lunar space station serving as a pitstop for astronauts on the way to the Moon and beyond.
"CAPSTONE's flight will demonstrate how this unique lunar orbit can support future spacecraft around the moon, helping to launch a new era of human space exploration," a video promoting the small but mighty satellite said.
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The CAPSTONE is the first mission in Nasa's newest chapter of spaceflights called Artemis.
Future Artemis missions will put humans on the surface of the Moon for the first time in over 50 years.
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