Moon lander Odysseus tipped sideways on lunar floor however ‘alive and properly’ By Reuters


© Reuters. Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus spacecraft passes over the close to aspect of the Moon following lunar orbit insertion on February 21, 2024, on this handout picture launched February 22, 2024. Intuitive Machines/Handout by way of REUTERS/File Photograph

By Steve Gorman and Joey Roulette

(Reuters) -The moon lander dubbed Odysseus is “alive and properly” however resting on its aspect a day after its white-knuckle landing as the primary personal spacecraft ever to achieve the lunar floor, and the primary from the U.S. since 1972, the corporate behind the automobile mentioned on Friday.

Houston-based Intuitive Machines additionally revealed that human error led to a failure of the spacecraft’s laser-based vary finders, how engineers detected the glitch by probability hours earlier than touchdown time, and the way they improvised an emergency repair that saved the mission from a possible crash.

Though the Odysseus made it to the floor intact on Thursday, evaluation of information by flight engineers confirmed the six-legged craft apparently tripped over its personal ft because it neared the tip of its closing descent, firm officers mentioned at a briefing the following day.

The spacecraft is believed to have caught certainly one of its touchdown ft on the uneven lunar floor and tipped over, coming to relaxation sideways, propped up on a rock at one finish, mentioned CEO Stephen Altemus, whose firm constructed and flew the lander.

Nonetheless, all indications are that Odysseus “is secure close to or at our meant touchdown web site,” near a crater referred to as Malapert A within the area of the moon’s south pole, Altemus instructed reporters.

“We do have communications with the lander,” and mission management operators are sending instructions to the automobile, Altemus mentioned, including that they had been working to acquire the primary photograph photographs from the lunar floor from the touchdown web site.

A short mission standing report posted to the corporate’s web site earlier on Friday described Odysseus “alive and properly.”

The corporate had mentioned shortly after landing on Thursday that radio indicators indicated Odysseus, a 13-foot-tall hexagonal cylinder, had landed in an upright place, however Altemus mentioned that defective conclusion was primarily based on telemetry from earlier than the touchdown.


Though the lander’s sideways place is much from best, firm officers mentioned that every one however certainly one of its six NASA science and know-how payloads had been mounted on parts of the automobile left uncovered and receptive to communications, “which is excellent for us,” Altemus mentioned.

“We expect we will meet all of the wants of the industrial payloads” as properly, he added.

Nonetheless, two of the spacecraft’s antennae had been left pointed on the floor, a circumstance that can restrict communications with the lander, Altemus mentioned.

Additionally the performance of a photo voltaic power panel on the highest of Odysseus, now dealing with the unsuitable method, is unsure, however a second array on the aspect of the spacecraft seems to be in working order, and the spacecraft’s batteries had been absolutely charged, he mentioned.

The uncrewed robotic spacecraft reached the lunar floor on Thursday after a nail-biting closing strategy and descent through which an issue with its navigation system surfaced, requiring flight controllers on the bottom to make use of an untested work-around to keep away from what may have been a catastrophic crash touchdown.

The unique laser-powered vary finders had been rendered non-functional as a result of firm engineers at NASA’s Kennedy Area Middle in Florida had inadvertently did not unlock a security change earlier than the lander’s launch to house final Thursday, Altemus mentioned.

“That was an oversight on our half,” he mentioned, likening the missed change to a security mechanism on a firearm.

The issue was solely detected by happenstance every week later throughout lunar orbit, with simply hours to go earlier than touchdown, when flight controllers had been troubleshooting a special subject.

In any other case, they may solely have realized the protection lock was nonetheless on when it was time to energy up the vary finders over the last 5 minutes of descent, mission director Tim Crain mentioned.

Tensions mounted as engineers decided that present software program aboard the spacecraft couldn’t override the protection lock to activate the vary finders, firm officers mentioned.

In the end, engineers scrambled to jot down software program directing the lander as an alternative to depend on an experimental NASA Lidar payload onboard – a distant sensing system that makes use of speedy pulses of laser-like mild and their reflections to guage distances between objects.

Meant to be used solely as a know-how demonstration, in addition to a potential backup, NASA’s Lidar saved the day, although it was employed below excessive duress.

“It is tremendous high-stakes,” former SpaceX mission director Abhi Tripathi mentioned. “The mission director has to ensure everybody does their job, and does their job completely, nearly like a conductor.”

Crain mentioned the spacecraft, burning a propulsion gasoline of liquid methane and liquid oxygen for the primary time in house, “carried out flawlessly” throughout its seven-day flight to and in orbit across the moon.

The situation of Odysseus was murky instantly after its touchdown. It took a while after an anticipated radio blackout to re-establish communications with the spacecraft and decide its destiny some 239,000 miles (384,000 km) from Earth.

When contact was lastly renewed, the sign was faint, confirming that the lander had touched down however leaving mission management instantly unsure as to the exact situation and place of the automobile, firm officers mentioned throughout a webcast of the occasion on Thursday night.

Crain mentioned he believed that the payloads aboard the lander would be capable of function for about 9 or 10 days, after which solar may have set on the polar touchdown web site.

Shares of Intuitive Machines tumbled 30% in prolonged commerce on Friday, wiping out all their rally in Friday’s market session after the corporate mentioned its moon lander had tipped over.


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