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American lunar mission's Odysseus possibly landed sideways on Moon | Check details

The mission marked the fourth private sector attempt to land softly on the Moon. Intuitive Machines now joins a select group of national space agencies that have achieved lunar landings.

Vishal Upadhyay Written By: Vishal Upadhyay New Delhi Published on: February 24, 2024 11:51 IST
us spacecraft, moon landing, odysseus, sideways, space, science, lunar mission, us lunar landers
Image Source : X/@INT_MACHINES Intuitive Machines Reports Sideways Landing of Odysseus Spacecraft on Moon

The company behind America's latest lunar mission, Intuitive Machines, reported on Friday that their spacecraft, named Odysseus, may have landed sideways on the Moon's surface. Despite the dramatic landing, ground controllers are working hard to gather data and photos from the spacecraft.

Challenges during landing

Odysseus touched down near the lunar south pole on Thursday evening after a tense descent. Ground teams had to switch to a backup guidance system, and it took a few minutes to establish radio contact after the lander settled.

Initial misinterpretation

Initially, Intuitive Machines stated that their spaceship was upright, but CEO Steve Altemus later clarified that it likely tipped over and ended up lying horizontally with its top resting on a small rock. This revelation slightly diminished the excitement surrounding the achievement.

Although the solar arrays are facing upwards, hindering communication is the downward-facing antennas. This limits the team's ability to download data from the science experiments onboard.

Photographic confirmation

Reportedly, A NASA probe called the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will attempt to photograph Odysseus over the weekend to determine its precise location. Due to complications during the landing, an external camera called "EagleCam" was not deployed to capture the descent. However, the team plans to deploy it from the ground to obtain an external image of Odysseus.

Technical challenges

Despite the challenges, Odysseus marks a significant success for a new generation of lunar landers funded by NASA. It's part of the Artemis program, which aims to return American astronauts to the Moon later this decade.

Future lunar missions

The United States, along with other countries, aims to establish long-term habitats on the Moon's south pole. This includes extracting water ice for drinking and rocket fuel. NASA's Artemis program plans the first crewed landing no earlier than 2026, while China aims for a crewed mission in 2030.

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