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Sunday, April 14 2024

Odysseus Spacecraft Goes Silent After Moon Tumble

Photo Credit : Google

A week after breaking its leg upon landing and toppling close to the lunar south pole, Odysseus—the first private US spacecraft to land on the moon—went silent on Thursday.

The end came when flight controllers told its computer and power systems to go into standby mode after receiving one final picture from Odysseus. The goal of this preventive action is to maintain the lander’s ability to reawaken in two to three weeks. Spokesman Josh Marshall for Intuitive Machines claims that these last steps exhausted the lander’s batteries, essentially sending Odysseus into an extended hibernation.

“Good night, Odie. We hope to hear from you again,” the company said via X, formerly Twitter. Originally slated for just a week-long mission on the moon, the lander exceeded expectations when Intuitive Machines successfully landed Odysseus on February 22, making it the first private company in the US to land on the moon. This feat placed them among the few countries, including Japan, to have accomplished such a landing since the 1960s.

Last Thursday, the six-legged vehicle successfully reached the lunar surface despite an 11th-hour navigational glitch. However, the descent resulted in an awkward landing, with Odysseus touching down in a sideways or sharply tilted position. This immediately impeded its operations.

Despite facing challenges, Intuitive Machines’ lander, Odysseus, surpassed the company’s initial expectations by remaining operational despite sustaining damage that affected its solar power and communication abilities, all while being in a tipped-over position.

A major advancement in NASA’s commercial lunar delivery program, Odysseus is carrying six $118 million NASA experiments. Private companies had made failed attempts before; in January, one lander crashed back to Earth.

NASA sees these private landers as precursors to manned missions, expected to occur in the coming years. Prior to Odysseus, the last U.S. moon landing was by Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt in 1972.

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