April 13, 2024

Brighton Journal

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Lunar lander rolled sideways on lunar surface but 'alive and well'

Lunar lander rolled sideways on lunar surface but 'alive and well'

The lunar lander, called Odysseus, is “alive and well” but resting on its side a day after touching down as the first private spacecraft ever to reach the lunar surface, and the first from the United States since 1972, the company behind the rover. He said on Friday.

The rover is believed to have become stuck with one of its six feet as it landed on the moon's surface near the end of its final descent and flipped over, resting sideways on a rock, a data analysis by aeronautical engineers showed. Houston-based Intuitive Machines.

However, all indications point to Odysseus being “stable near or at the intended landing site” near a crater called Malapert A in the moon’s south pole region, said Stephen Altemus, CEO of Intuitive Machines, which built and flew. Lander.

“We have communications with the lander,” Altimus said, and mission control operators are sending commands to the rover, adding that they are working to obtain the first photographs of the lunar surface from the landing site.

A brief mission status update posted on the company's website earlier Friday described Odysseus as “alive and well.”

The company said shortly after the landing on Thursday that radio signals indicated that Odysseus, a 13-foot-tall hexagonal cylinder, had landed upright, but Atlemus said that was an incorrect conclusion based on telemetry before landing.

Although the lander's horizontal position is far from ideal, company officials said that all but one of NASA's six science and technology payloads were mounted on parts of the vehicle that were left exposed and receiving communications, “which is very good for us.” said Ultimus. .

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“We believe we can meet all commercial payload needs” as well, he added.

Less promising, Altimus said, is the fact that two of the spacecraft's antennas were left pointed at the surface, a circumstance that would limit communications with the lander.

The function of the solar panel on top of Odysseus, now facing the wrong way, is uncertain, but the second array on the side of the spacecraft appears to be in good condition, and the spacecraft's batteries are fully charged. He said.

The spacecraft, which burns liquid methane and liquid oxygen propellant for the first time in space, “performed flawlessly” during its journey to the moon, said Tim Crane, Intuitive Machines' mission manager.

The unmanned robotic spacecraft reached the lunar surface on Thursday after a final approach and a difficult landing as a problem arose in the lander's navigation system, requiring engineers on Earth to use an untested solution at the eleventh hour.

It also took some time after an expected radio blackout to restore communications with the spacecraft and determine its fate some 239,000 miles (384,000 km) from Earth.

When contact was finally renewed, the signal was faint, confirming that the lander had landed, but leaving mission control not immediately sure about the exact status and location of the vehicle, company officials said during a webcast of the event on Thursday evening.

Crane said he believes the payloads aboard the lander will be able to operate for about nine or 10 days, after which the sun will set on the polar landing site.

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Shares of Intuitive Machines fell 30% in extended trading Friday, erasing all of their gains in Friday's market session after the company said its lunar lander had capsized.