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Intuitive Machines' lunar probe likely landed on its side

2024-02-24T01:52:00.842Z

Highlights: Intuitive Machines' lunar probe likely landed on its side. “We think” that Odysseus “caught his foot on the surface and that the lander overturned,” Steve Altemus, CEO and co-founder of Intuitive Machines, explained at a press conference. The company said Thursday evening that the plane had landed "upright", but that claim was based on faulty data, the CEO added. The moon landing, even if it was not perfect, still marks a success for NASA, which had signed a $118 million contract with Intuitive machines.


“We think” that Odysseus “caught his foot on the surface and that the lander overturned,” Steve Altemus, CEO and co-founder of the American company, explained at a press conference.


The American company Intuitive Machines, the first private company to have landed on the Moon, announced Friday February 23 that its probe had probably ended up lying on one side instead of landing vertically on the Moon, but that scientific data and images should still be able to be recovered.

Intuitive Machines' Odysseus probe, which measures more than 4 meters high, landed on the Moon at 11:23 p.m. GMT on Thursday, becoming the first American device to do so in more than 50 years.

But twists and turns, notably a failure of its navigation system, complicated the final descent.

“We think” that Odysseus “caught his foot on the surface and that the lander overturned

,” Steve Altemus, CEO and co-founder of Intuitive Machines, explained at a press conference.

Using a model of the lander, he showed the device on one side, but with its upper part probably resting on

"a rock"

, allowing it to be partially

"raised"

, according to analyzes by this young company, founded in 2013 and based in Houston, Texas.

The lander still produces energy thanks to its solar panels and can therefore operate, he said, specifying that a NASA probe in lunar orbit should try to take photos

“this weekend »

, which could confirm Odysseus' exact position.

The company said Thursday evening that the plane had landed

"upright"

, but that claim was based on faulty data, the CEO added.

An additional turn of the Moon

The device notably transports scientific instruments from NASA, which wishes to explore the South Pole of the Moon before sending its astronauts there, as part of its Artemis missions.

Luckily, most of the cargo carried by the lander is on the side facing away from the lunar surface, Altemus said.

However, some antennas are pointed towards the ground, limiting data transmission capacities.

Another disappointment: a small machine equipped with cameras and called EagleCam, developed by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, had to be ejected from the lander at the last moment to capture the landing from the outside.

Unfortunately, due to complications encountered during this phase, the deployment of EagleCam has been postponed, the university said Friday.

This is now planned during the ground mission, which could make it possible to obtain an external view of the lander.

The moon landing, even if it was not perfect, still marks a success for NASA, which had signed a $118 million contract with Intuitive Machines to transport six scientific instruments during this mission. , named IM-1.

One of them probably saved the trip.

The lander's navigation system did not work as expected, so the company had to improvise.

During an additional tour of the Moon added just before the dreaded descent, employees programmed a NASA laser system at the last minute to guide the lander.

This system, which aims to improve the precision of landings, was to be activated for the first time in space during this mission, during a test.

But it was eventually successfully used as the primary navigation system.

Stimulating the development of a lunar economy

Odysseus' ground operations are expected to last about seven days at most, before night sets in over the lunar south pole.

Intuitive Machines received congratulations from around the world on Thursday, including from competing companies that themselves recently tried the maneuver, without success: the Japanese start-up ispace, which crashed on the Moon last year, and the American Astrobotic, which failed to reach the star in January.

This mission is the first for Intuitive Machines, but the second for NASA's new lunar delivery program, called CLPS, after the failure of Astrobotic last month.

Instead of sending scientific instruments to the Moon using its own vehicles, the American space agency decided to order this service from private companies.

This strategy should allow him to make the trip more often and for less money.

But also to stimulate the development of a lunar economy, capable of supporting a lasting human presence on the Moon - one of the goals of NASA's Artemis program.

In total, four additional US lunar missions are officially planned this year under the CLPS program, including two more from Intuitive Machines.

Source: lefigaro

All tech articles on 2024-02-24

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