Intuitive Machines faces early end to moon mission after lander tips over

Date:

Share post:


Intuitive Machines’ first moon mission will come to a premature end due to the spacecraft landing on its side, which altered how the solar panels are positioned in relation to the sun, the company said in an update Tuesday morning.

Flight controllers were still working to determine the battery’s remaining life, which could be between 10-20 hours. The spacecraft, which landed on the moon five days ago, was expected to operate for 7-10 days.

Intuitive Machines made history when it landed its spacecraft, called Odysseus, near the lunar south pole last week. The lander is the first American hardware to touch the lunar surface since NASA’s final crewed Apollo mission in 1972. It’s also the first privately built and operated spacecraft to land on the moon — ever – and the closest a lander has ever come to the lunar south pole.

But the momentous success was somewhat dashed when company officials revealed in a televised press briefing the following day that the spacecraft had actually tipped over at some point during landing. Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus suggested that Odysseus did not descend straight down, but at a lateral angle. It also came down a little too quickly, which could’ve caused one of the feet to catch on a rock or crevice and causing the tip, he speculated.

The spacecraft likely came to a rest slightly elevated on a rock, based on the amount of power that was being generated by the solar arrays, he added. Images captured by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a satellite that’s been orbiting the moon and collecting data on its surface for over a decade, located Odysseus on the surface and confirmed it landed within just 1.5 kilometers of its intended site near the lunar south pole.

Odysseus is continuing to send science data and imagery related to the onboard payloads, but the company did not specify whether the data rates have been limited due to the lander’s position. While none of the science payloads are located on the panel facing the moon’s surface, two of the spacecraft’s antennae are now pointing at the ground.

It is still unclear if this is affecting any data-gathering, but Altemus said the loss of the antennae was a “limiter.”

“Those antennas are unusable for transmission back to Earth,” he said last Friday. “So that really is a limiter. Our ability to communicate and get the right data down so that we get everything we need for the mission I think is the most compromised from [it] being on its side.”

Intuitive Machines’ historic landing is due in no small part to extremely quick thinking on the part of flight controllers, who had to improvise a navigation solution after they learned the spacecraft’s onboard laser range finders — which collect essential landing data, like altitude and horizontal velocity — were not working. Remarkably, they turned instead to one of the payloads on the lander, a doppler lidar technology demonstrator from NASA, to help land the vehicle on the surface.

Company officials later revealed that the laser range finders stopped working due to human error and trade-offs made to save time and money, rather than any technical issues. Engineers chose not to test fire the laser system on the ground due to cost and scheduling, Intuitive Machines’ head of navigation systems, Mike Hansen, told Reuters yesterday. Engineers also failed to toggle a physical safety switch on the system prior to launch.

Intuitive Machines and NASA leadership will host a second televised news conference tomorrow to discuss updates to the mission.





Source link

Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden
Lisa Holden is a news writer for LinkDaddy News. She writes health, sport, tech, and more. Some of her favorite topics include the latest trends in fitness and wellness, the best ways to use technology to improve your life, and the latest developments in medical research.

Recent posts

Related articles

Investors are growing increasingly wary of AI

After years of easy money, the AI industry is facing a reckoning. A new report from Stanford’s Institute...

Paraform raises $3.6M seed round to connect startups with recruiter networks

Layoffs usually drive attention and sympathy towards affected employees, but rarely does anyone talk about what happens...

Meta’s ‘consent or pay’ tactic must not prevail over privacy, EU rights groups warn

Ahead of a full meeting of the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) this week (April 16 and...

Tesla is laying off more than 10% of its global workforce

Tesla is laying off thousands of workers as it tries to simultaneously cut costs and boost productivity,...

Bluesky now allows heads of states to sign up for the social network

Social networking platform Bluesky lifted its ban on sign-ups for heads of state over the weekend. This...

OpenAI opens Tokyo hub, adds GPT-4 model optimized for Japanese

OpenAI is expanding to Japan, with the opening of a new Tokyo office and plans for a...

ShareChat’s valuation drops below $2 billion in new funding

Social media startup ShareChat’s valuation has cratered below $2 billion from nearly $5 billion in a new...

Pula raises $20M Series B to provide agricultural insurance to farmers in Africa, Asia and LatAm

Pula, an insurtech based in Kenya, has since 2015 been keen on enhancing the access to agricultural...