April 22, 2024

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The first American moon landing since 1972 is scheduled to take place today as the spacecraft approaches the lunar surface

The first American moon landing since 1972 is scheduled to take place today as the spacecraft approaches the lunar surface

Houston-based Intuitive Machines was equipped Odysseus landing To land on the moon today, a dramatic 1-hour and 13-minute descent from orbit to become the first U.S.-built spacecraft to attach to a spacecraft. Landing on the moon For over 50 years and the first ever by a private company.

After some adjustments in the final hours, landing is now expected at 6:24 PM EST.

After a day of braking in an orbit tilted 80 degrees to the lunar equator, the methane-fueled Odysseus main engine was primed for ignition shortly after 5 p.m. EDT, lowering the far side of the orbit to a point close to the landing site About 186 miles from the moon. The south pole of the moon.

Intuitive machines

The descent start was delayed about two hours after Intuitive Machines chose to keep Odysseus in an additional orbit, likely to allow more time for pre-landing checks. Once landed, the rover's on-board cameras and lasers are programmed to scan the ground below to identify landmarks, providing guidance input to the lander's guidance system to help set the trajectory.

One hour later, at approximately 6:12 p.m., the main engine is expected to ignite again at an altitude of just under 20 miles and continue firing for the final 10 minutes of descent, flipping Odysseus from horizontal to vertical and landing flat. straight. Down at a speed of just under 4 mph.

As the spacecraft descends below 100 feet, the innovative camera package, known as “EagleCam,” built by students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, will drop down and attempt to photograph the lander's final descent from the side. NASA's cameras on board the spacecraft will image the Earth directly below.

By the time Odysseus reaches about 33 feet above the surface, the main engine was scheduled to drop to a planned descent speed of about 2.2 mph, the walking speed of an elderly person.

Landing near the crater known as Malapert A is expected at 6:24 p.m., one week later Launch from Kennedy Space Center.

A camera on the Odysseus lander captured an image of the moon beneath the spacecraft after a critical engine fire Wednesday to brake into lunar orbit.

Intuitive machines

Video from the rover's onboard cameras and EagleCam cannot be sent back to Earth in real time, but Intuitive Machines engineers at the company's Nova Control Center in Houston say they will be able to verify the landing in about 15 seconds. The first images are expected within half an hour or so.

A successful landing on the moon's surface would mark the first landing of an American-made spacecraft since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, and the first landing ever of a private spacecraft.

Astrobotic, based in Pittsburgh It had hoped to claim that honor last month with the Peregrine lander, but the mission was derailed by a fuel tank rupture shortly after launch on January 9. One by Israel And the other with it Japanand also ended in failure.

Only the governments of the United States, the Soviet Union, China, India, and Japan have successfully placed landers on the moon, and Japanese SLIM lander. It was only partially successful, capsizing on landing on January 19.

Both Peregrine and Odysseus were funded in part through NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program, or CLPS (pronounced CLIPS), designed to encourage private industry to develop transportation capabilities that NASA can then use to transport payloads to the Moon.

An artist's concept of Intuitive Machines' Odysseus lander on the moon.

Intuitive machines

The agency's goal is to help jump-start the development of new technologies and collect the data that will be needed Artemis Astronauts plan to land near the moon's south pole later this decade.

NASA paid Astrobotic $108 million for its role in the Peregrine mission and another $129 million for the Odysseus instruments and transportation to the Moon.

What's on board the Odysseus moon lander?

Odysseus is equipped with six NASA instruments and six other commercial payloads, including small moon sculptures by artist Jeff Koons, proof-of-concept cloud storage technology, Columbia insulated sports blankets and a small astronomical telescope.

NASA's experiments include: an instrument to study the environment of charged particles on the moon's surface, another designed to test navigation techniques, and downward-facing cameras designed to photograph how the descent engine exhaust disrupts the soil at the landing site.

Also on board: an innovative sensor that uses radio waves to precisely determine the amount of cryogenic propellant remaining in the tank in the weightless environment of space, a technology expected to be useful for eventual lunar missions and other deep space missions.

Odysseus and its instruments are expected to work on the surface for about a week, until the sun sets at the landing site. At this point, the probe's solar cells will no longer be able to generate power and the spacecraft will stop working. Odysseus was not designed to survive the frigid lunar night.

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