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Writers on the Moon: A Journey of Dreams, Disappointment, and Perseverance

Updated: May 31

“We’ll send a rag-tag fleet of stories to the Moon aboard a digital data card. We hope this snapshot of indie fiction from around the world in 2021 will reveal the humanity of today to the readers of tomorrow.” - Writers on the Moon website

In the vast expanse of our universe, where dreams touch the stars and aspirations reach beyond our earthly bounds, the Writers on the Moon project emerged. Headed up by Author Susan Kaye Quinn, this was a unique endeavor fueled by passion, dreams, and the desire to share something unique.

About the Project

On Jan 2, 2021, Susan Kaye Quinn sent out an email that said:


I'm so excited! I'm sending a literary time capsule to the Moon. It will contain a microSD card with the stories of (at least) 50 writers. This is a whole adventure, so I've got a website, newsletter, a blog, and more to document the journey as well as display the manifest of books.

Fortunately, for me, she extended the invite to 125 writers because I became #121.

You can read how special this moment was for me on the website:

The magic of this endeavor unfolded in unexpected ways. Beyond the planned contributions, writers went above and beyond, bringing stowaways—special works from friends, tributes to loved ones, and more. Assembling a diverse array of stories, personal pictures, songs, and videos, the project became a testament to the collective spirit of storytellers.

Lift-Off and the Perils of the Cosmic Journey

Astrobotic is the private U.S. company that developed the space robotics, Peregrine, for this lunar mission. And with the help of ULA’s Vulcan rocket, Astrobotic was sending fifteen payloads to the moon. Writers on the Moon was part of the DHL payload.

So, on January 8, 2024 at 2:18 am ET, thousands gathered to watch, through NASA's YouTube channel, this historic and long-awaited moment. The launch, initially flawless, symbolized the culmination of the dreams and aspirations of so many scientists, engineers, and teams of people around the world. However, amidst this beautiful cosmic dance, an anomaly emerged—an unexpected twist that altered the mission's trajectory.

Astrobotic faced a challenge—a propulsion issue that led to critical concerns for the spacecraft. The team responded with exceptional teamwork, real-time adjustments, and constant updates. Peregrine persisted in space, exceeding expectations as engineers found solutions to extend its life. And despite a propellant leak, the spacecraft continued its cosmic voyage, covering over 218,000 miles.

Triumphs Amidst Tragedy 

Peregrine's operational lifespan defied expectations, lasting over 10 days. Even in the face of adversity, the spacecraft collected valuable data, turning challenges into opportunities for scientific exploration.

Still, with this propellant leak, there was no way Peregrine could successful land on the moon. In the face of challenges, Astrobotic made the difficult decision to end Peregrine's mission by returning and allowing the spacecraft to burn up during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. This decision aimed to ensure the responsible preservation of cislunar space, avoiding the creation of debris and protecting satellites in Earth orbit.

A Tale of Resilience, Dreams, and Lunar Hope

During these ten days a bond emerged with the participants of the Writers on the Moon project. Susan Kaye Quinn created a very special community; together we rejoiced and together we mourned. Then our hearts turned to those who were the most impacted by this, we sent donuts and messages to the engineering team at Astrobotics.

Here is a portion of my message:

Dear Astrobotic Team,

I understand that words can't fully heal the range of emotions you've been dealing with over these past few days. Nevertheless, many of us felt a need to share our sentiments with you during this time. Right now, we are mourning with you, feeling the weight of your sorrows and disappointments. Yet, we are also still rejoicing and celebrating with you, stemming from those initial extraordinary moments. There is so much emotion here. We hope in some small way we can adequately communicate to you how spectacular these events have been for so many of us.

When Susan Kaye Quinn invited us to participate back in 2021, it was a time of deep despair and sorrow across the globe. Hope was limited. Over the past few years, there have been deep concerns about the state of our country and the world. But then during the early hours of Jan 8, 2024, your team offered the world an incredible display of what humanity can do when they work together. The collaboration, teamwork, unity, and vision were nothing short of extraordinary.

At the end of one of the most epic days of my life (thanks to you), I sat down and tried to put together so many feelings and emotions. Here are a few of my words:

Watching that rocket lift off, seeing the joy of so many, the epic feats, the precautions, and the victories was priceless. It is a day always to remember. Beautiful displays of unity, community, and joint achievements when humanity comes together for a greater goal than just meeting our own needs. It was absolutely a life-changing day.

Even though the mission did not go as planned, and the heartbreak must run deep for so many, a vast crowd of us want you to know that Jan 8th was a miraculous day that will not be forgotten. Thank you for the lessons displayed, for restoring hope in humanity, and for helping us to look to the sky for greatness.

In the days ahead, we look forward to more miracles from Astrobotic. Your extraordinary feats will continue!

May the sting lessen over time and may more triumphs be around the next corner.

With deep gratitude – thank you for the gift you gave so many of us.

Tara C. Allred

When Astrobotics announced Peregrine's fate, they also shared how grateful they were for the meaningful contribution of Peregrine and its payload teams toward the future of lunar exploration.

In summary, this is just the beginning. Peregrine paved the way for more space adventures to continue onward. Its mission taught us much, most especially how humanity can come together as we look beyond ourselves to reach toward the stars.


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