Odysseus moon lander still operational, in final hours before battery dies : The Tribune India

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Odysseus moon lander still operational, in final hours before battery dies

The spacecraft reached the lunar surface last Thursday after an 11th-hour navigational glitch and white-knuckle descent that ended with Odysseus landing in a sideways position has impeded its communications and solar-charging capability.

Odysseus moon lander still operational, in final hours before battery dies

Photo for representation: iStock



Reuters

February 27

Odysseus, the first US spacecraft to land on the moon since 1972, neared the end of its fifth day on the lunar surface still operational, but with its battery in its final hours before the vehicle is expected to go dark, according to flight controllers.

Texas-based Intuitive Machines said in an online update on Tuesday that its control centre in Houston remained in contact with the lander as it “efficiently sent payload science data and imagery in furtherance of the company’s mission objectives”.

The spacecraft reached the lunar surface last Thursday after an 11th-hour navigational glitch and white-knuckle descent that ended with Odysseus landing in a sideways or sharply tilted position has impeded its communications and solar-charging capability.

Intuitive Machines said the next day that human error was to blame for the navigational issue. Flight readiness teams had neglected to manually unlock a safety switch before launch, preventing subsequent activation of the vehicle’s laser-guided range finders and forcing flight engineers to hurriedly improvise an alternative during lunar orbit.

An Intuitive executive told Reuters on Saturday that the safety switch lapse stemmed from the company’s decision to forgo a test-firing of the laser system during pre-launch checks in order to save time and money.

Whether or not failure of the range finders and last-minute substitution of a work-around ultimately caused Odysseus to land in an off-kilter manner remained an open question, according to Intuitive officials.

Nevertheless, the company said last Friday that two of the spacecraft’s communication antennae were knocked out of commission, pointed the wrong way, and that its solar panels were likewise facing the wrong direction, limiting the vehicle’s ability to recharge its batteries.

As a consequence, Intuitive said on Monday that it expected to lose contact with Odysseus on Tuesday morning, cutting short the mission that held a dozen science instruments for NASA and several commercial customers and had been intended to operate on the moon for seven to 10 days.


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