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Odysseus’ lander ‘alive and healthy’ on moon


Odyssey’s lunar lander made history yesterday, but only by the skin of its famous teeth. Intuitive Machines confirmed that the IM-1 mission was the first successful U.S. moon landing in more than 50 years, breaking a string of failures that remind us that getting to the moon is no easy feat just because it’s already been done. Intuitive Machines says the Odysseus is “alive and well,” but the ship’s exact conditions are still unknown.

On Thursday night, the vehicle fired up its methane-fueled engine and slowed to more than 1,800 meters per second before touching the surface. But Odysseus almost made it. When the spacecraft began its descent, the crew was unable to activate the navigation system. Fortunately, IM-1 carries a variety of NASA science payloads, including a demonstration version of the Navigation Doppler Lidar (NDL). NASA couldn’t have asked for better testing of the device; Intuitive Machines decided to switch Odysseus completely to NDL, using laser guidance for the moon landing.

After this spectacular descent, the lander appears to be getting back on track. Intuitive Machines reported that Odysseus was reporting telemetry and solar panels were charging the batteries. Flight controllers communicate with the vehicle and download scientific data. Odysseus has a camera, which he used earlier to take some selfies with Earth. A few hours after landing, the company said it was trying to upload images from the surface, but as of this writing, it had not yet released any images.

Odysseus is the first U.S. Moon landing in fifty years, as well as the first success of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. CLPS provides critical data to assist the Artemis program by allowing NASA to send vehicles to the Moon in low-cost dedicated landers. The last CLPS mission failed due to the Peregrine lander experiencing a fuel leak after reaching space. It failed to land and subsequently burned up in Earth’s atmosphere.

IM-1 will not be long-term. Intuitive Machines expects the landing to last about a week per month. At that time, Odysseus will be covered with weeks of shadows of the moonlit night. Cold temperatures and lack of solar power will decide the fate of the lander, but it has already earned a place in the history books.

Source: Port Altele

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