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Odysseus Lunar Lander sent a farewell photo from Earth: what now?

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Goodbye, Odie. On Thursday, Houston-based space exploration company Intuitive Machines said goodbye to Odysseus, the lunar lander that took the United States to the Moon for the first time. first time in over 50 years. The lander had been there for a week and will remain on the surface of the Moon, unusable but considered a historic achievement in the annals of lunar exploration.

“Before his power was exhausted, Odysseus performed a fitting farewell transmission,” the company said. wrote in a tweet shared Thursday. “Received today, this February 22 image features Earth’s crescent as a backdrop, a subtle reminder of humanity’s presence in the universe. Good night, Odie. We look forward to hearing from you.”

The image tweeted by Intuitive Machines. Look closely and you can see Earth. (Click to enlarge.)

Intuitive machines via X/Twitter

Intuitive machines successfully landed Ulysses on the surface of the moon on February 22, after a seven-day space voyage by the craft. This is the first time an American vehicle has traveled to the surface of the Moon since Apollo 17 in 1972. But unlike the Apollo missions, which were entirely operated by NASA, this time the space agency hired the company private to send a lander to the Moon. .

The United States is the only country to have sent humans to the Moon, but its attention shifted away from the lunar surface in the 1970s. In recent years, however, NASA has planned a return, thanks to its Mission Artemis, which is currently expected to put its boots back on the Moon no earlier than September 2026 (several years after the original target date). At the same time, the space agency works with private companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Horizon on various missions, notably through its Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative. The Odysseus mission was under the auspices of CLPS.

Here’s what you need to know.

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The Odysseus lander became the first American spacecraft to land on the Moon since 1972.

Mohammed Ali Yigit/Getty Images

Ulysses lunar mission

The Odysseus mission was approved by NASA to collect scientific data on the surface of the Moon. The lander, known internally as the Nova-C lander – and affectionately to Intuitive employees like “Odie” – is about the size of a telephone booth. It landed in the moon’s south pole region called Malapert A at 6:24 p.m. ET on February 22.

Odie was equipped with a multitude of instruments to study the lunar surface and radio waves and send photos back to the United StatesNASA said. The lander also featured an array of retroflectors that helped NASA identify its location and where to send other autonomous vehicles on future missions.

The launch and landing portion of the mission lasted seven days, but it was full of drama after the Intuitive Machines team discovered that the lander’s telemetry system was inoperable and the team had to recode Ulysses to use a different telemetry system to achieve a safe landing. Worse still, the team found that Ulysses was descending at a much faster speed than expected, increasing the risk of an accident. Fortunately, this did not happen.

What you need to know about intuitive machines

Intuitive Machines is the first benefactor of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, which the agency launched in 2018. NASA has been studying whether to build and send its own lunar lander to the Moon. But the space agency determined that it would be less expensive, with a potentially higher chance of success, to pay commercial companies to do the task.

NASA paid Intuitive Machines $118 million to send Ulysses to the moon. The agency hoped to learn more about the lunar surface and where to possibly return humans to the Moon.

About Odysseus Technology

Odysseus carried several instruments to learn about the moon and space.

En route to the Moon, NASA instruments aboard the craft measured its cryogenic fuel consumption, and as Ulysses landed, another instrument tested the dust kicked up by the lander.

Once Ulysses was on the moon, additional technologies were used to assess the lunar surface. One, called Lunar Node 1 Demonstrator, focused on autonomous navigation to show how future landers could traverse the surface. An array of laser retroflectors made ranging and distance measurements. And a radio wave instrument analyzed radio waves from the Moon’s surface to determine how they would affect the work of humans conducting scientific research there. Additionally, four cameras captured images of the lander’s surroundings.

Drunk Odysseus

Intuitive Machines confirmed that Ulysses landed sideways after apparently getting one of his feet stuck in something. The company now believes the lander is either tilted on a rock or lying on its side on the side of a hill.

Despite less than ideal positioning, Intuitive Machines was able to communicate with Odysseus and its sensors remained operational.

Short lifespan

Although Odysseus only spends a week on the lunar surface, that’s all he gets. The lander was only expected to be operational for nine to ten days. After that, Intuitive Machines knew that the sun would set at the landing site, and that Ulysses’ radios and batteries could not survive the extremely cold lunar nights.

And after

The Odysseus Lander mission is only the first in a series of NASA missions which aim to eventually return astronauts to the Moon. Like Ulysses, future landers will explore the lunar surface, scout out ideal locations for astronauts to land, and carry out scientific research.

For its part, Intuitive Machines is not made on the moon. The Odysseus mission may be over, but the company is already working on it two more moon landing missionsscheduled to launch later this year.



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