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Intuitive Machines: The Odysseus spacecraft's mission will be shorter than planned

Intuitive Machines: The Odysseus spacecraft's mission will be shorter than planned

The Odysseus space probe, the first American spacecraft to land on the moon in fifty years, will finish its work ahead of schedule, after five days, the private company operating the mission, Intuitive Machines, announced on Monday.

Photo: Taser/AFP

NASA, which supports the private space company's lunar landing program, expected the Odysseus rover to operate for seven to 10 days, but instead contact with the lander is expected to be lost on Tuesday. The specialists managing the mission have not yet been able to determine the amount of scientific data that will be lost due to shortening the mission.

The announcement of shortening the mission came after company officials admitted that they took a risk and shortened the pre-flight testing of the lander to save time and money. In addition, they reported that the company's engineers made an error while preparing for Odysseus' landing, as they did not unlock the manual safety lock of the laser rangefinder, which plays an important role in the device's navigation, before take-off, so it was unusable upon landing.

Due to a navigation problem noted shortly before landing, Odysseus was forced to orbit the Moon again to give flight control time to secure the landing. Ultimately, NASA's experimental system was used for landing. But it remains to be determined whether this had any role in the probe falling on its side and colliding with the moon.

According to recent images taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, Odysseus is located one and a half kilometers from the planned landing site, near the Malapert A crater.

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Intuitive Machines previously said one of Odysseus's six legs hit a rock during its landing on Thursday, causing it to flip over. Meanwhile, the fact that the spacecraft approached the lunar surface at twice the speed as planned may also have played a role in the unfavorable landing.

Odysseus lies on his side, his energy supply limited by not enough sunlight reaching his solar cells. Its two antennas face Earth, hindering communication with the spacecraft.

Houston-based Intuitive Machines said in a statement Monday that while the rover's solar panels provide power, they collect transmitted data, and estimates that communication will be lost on Tuesday, five days after landing.

Intuitive Machines spent about $100 million on the lander and received $118 million from NASA under the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, which was launched to support private lunar missions.

More than fifty years ago, Odysseus was the first American lunar probe to reach Earth's companion planet.

(MTI)

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