April 20, 2024

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The Odysseus lunar lander sends back the first images after SpaceX launch

The Odysseus lunar lander sends back the first images after SpaceX launch


The images were selected from hundreds of images taken by the lander's cameras shortly after it separated from a SpaceX rocket and headed toward the moon in a historic landing attempt.

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The Odysseus lunar lander sent home some personal photos of the spacecraft jutting in front of Earth as it made its way to the lunar surface.

The images were taken a day after Houston-based Intuitive Machines' unmanned lander launched onto the spacecraft. SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket On its way to becoming the first commercial vehicle to reach the moon.

Space company Four photos were shared The photos were selected on Saturday on the social networking site

“From all the images collected, Intuitive Machines chose to show humanity’s place in the universe with four amazing images that we hope will inspire the next generation of risk-takers,” the company said in a statement. statement.

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Odysseus remains on track to attempt a moon landing on Thursday

Named after the Greek hero in Homer's epic poem “The Odyssey,” Odysseus has the potential to become a history-making spacecraft if it lands on the moon.

No commercial lander has ever reached the lunar surface, and it has been more than 50 years since the last American lunar landing in 1972 as part of NASA's Apollo program.

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But Intuitive Machines' lander isn't the first to make this attempt.

In January, Pittsburgh-based space company Astrobotic sent the Peregrine lander on a doomed mission to the moon, which ended with the spacecraft burning up in Earth's atmosphere days later. Shortly after separating from United Launch Alliance Vulcan The rocket's Peregrine thruster began leaking a critical amount of propellant eventually forcing Astrobotic to abandon plans to land on the moon.

The outlook for Odysseus appears to be more optimistic, with Intuitive Machines reporting that the spacecraft is still on track to attempt a lunar landing on Thursday near the moon's south polar region. Scientists have long been interested in studying Antarctica because of the presence of water ice, which is believed to be abundant within its craters.

After liftoff on Thursday, the 14-foot-tall Nova-C lander reached its intended orbit about 48 minutes later and established contact with ground control in Houston, Intuitive Machines said. successful Engine running on Friday It helped position the lander toward the Moon and allowed flight controllers to determine that the engine afterburner and throttle systems needed for landing were operating as intended.

Aviation controllers reported Sunday That Odysseus “remains in excellent health” as they prepare to “enter lunar orbit” on Wednesday, one day before landing.

The landing will be broadcast on the company IM-1 mission Landing page. Columbia Sportswear, which is testing metal jacket fabric as thermal insulation on the lander, will also handle the outside of the Las Vegas ball during the landing attempt. According to a press release.

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“We are keenly aware of the enormous challenges that lie ahead,” Steve Altemus, CEO of Intuitive Machines, said in a statement. statement After launch. “Yet, in confronting these challenges head-on, we recognize the magnitude of the opportunity before us: quietly returning the United States to the surface of the Moon for the first time in 52 years.”

NASA hopes that the mission will pave the way for astronauts to return to the moon

Intuitive Machines' lunar mission is part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS, program.

The US space agency has a budget of $2.6 billion in contracts Available until 2028 to pay private companies to place scientific payloads on private robotic landers like Odysseus headed to the moon's surface. If Intuitive Machines can accomplish the mission, it will open the door for NASA to work with more commercial entities on future space endeavors.

As the lead customer for the Odysseus mission, NASA paid Intuitive Machines $118 million to transport its science payloads to the Moon. The scientific instruments will collect valuable data for NASA as it prepares to send astronauts to the lunar surface for the since-delayed Artemis program.

This mission, and others like it, are intended to pave the way for human exploration of the Moon.

NASA has postponed plans for Artemis 2 until 2025, when a group of astronauts could finally embark on a 10-day journey around the moon. The mission will serve as a precursor to the Artemis III mission years later, when another crew of astronauts launches to land on the same moon.

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Eric Lagata covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Contact him at [email protected]