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According to NASA, a United States spacecraft on the moon experienced a "foot catch" which caused it to tip onto its side.
Science

According to NASA, a United States spacecraft on the moon experienced a “foot catch” which caused it to tip onto its side.

According to a recent update from Nasa and Intuitive Machines, the spacecraft Odysseus, which is the first US-made vehicle to land on the moon in over fifty years, has tipped onto its side.

At 6:23pm ET on Thursday, the robotic lander successfully landed on the moon’s south polar region. There was a delay of a few minutes before flight controllers were able to establish communication with the lander.

Upon touchdown, Odysseus flipped onto its side as Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus described it as “catching a foot on the surface and tipping.”

According to the team, the lander is currently located close to or directly on the designated landing spot. Nasa and Intuitive Machines have been receiving data from the lander and are confident that the majority of its scientific tools are operational.

Tim Crain, the chief technology officer and co-founder of Intuitive Machines, described the day as truly enchanting during the press conference on Friday.

The location where Odysseus arrived, close to the Malapert A crater near the south pole of the moon, is a hazardous landscape filled with craters. However, it was selected due to the potential abundance of frozen water that could support a lasting lunar settlement in the future.

Visuals of the landing and a recreation of the sequence of events are expected to be released in the upcoming days.

An artist’s rendering of the Odysseus spacecraft after landing on the moon. Scientists say the craft is currently tipped on its side.

Display image in full screen mode.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) compensated Intuitive Machines with a sum of $118 million to complete the expedition as a component of the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, which grants contracts to private collaborators. This endeavor is a crucial aspect of the Artemis program, which aims to send astronauts back to the moon.

During Odysseus’s seven-day mission, which will be fueled by solar power until the landing site moves into earth’s shadow, Nasa hopes to analyse how soil there reacted to the impact of the landing. The agency has also sent other instruments as part of the lander’s payload, including communication devices.

The lander, which measured 14ft (4.3 metres) and had six legs in a hexagonal shape, utilized Nasa’s innovative laser navigation system to maneuver its descent when Intuitive Machines’ laser device malfunctioned.

During the descent, the navigation system needed to be switched, leading to the deliberate powering off of EagleCam, a cube equipped with cameras designed by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. This was done in order to capture photos of Odysseus’ landing that would pop off 30 seconds before touchdown.

Troy Henderson of Embry-Riddle stated that his team aims to launch EagleCam in the near future, allowing it to capture images of the lander from a distance of approximately 26 feet (8 meters).

Henderson, speaking to the Associated Press, emphasized the significance of obtaining a final image of the lander on the moon’s surface due to the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Odysseus’s location.

On Friday, shares of Intuitive Machines, which is the first private company to successfully land on the moon, tumbled by 30% in extended trade, after news that the spacecraft had tipped over.

Source: theguardian.com