The moon landers will cease to work after the sideways landing

Odysseus and SLIM, a privately built lunar lander, will be released Tuesday after their first success on the Moon

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A private U.S. lunar lander is expected to stop working Tuesday, its mission cut short after landing sideways near the south pole of the moon.

Intuitive Machines, the Houston company that built and flew the spacecraft, said Monday it will continue to collect data until sunlight no longer shines on the solar panels. Based on the moon’s position, it is believed that will happen Tuesday morning. The short week had been a problem for NASA and other customers.

Both SLIM and Odysseus experienced problems with their landings last week, making them the first privately built Moon-landers to do so. “Landing on the Moon is as difficult as it has always been,” says Barber.

Based on photos from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter flying overhead, Odysseus landed within a mile or so (1.5 kilometers) of its intended target near the Malapert A crater, just 185 miles or so (300 kilometers) from the moon’s south pole.

The images from the LRO photo were taken at a distance of more than ninety kilometers and show the landers on the surface. A camera-ejecting experiment by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, to capture images of the lander as they both descended, was called off shortly before touchdown because of a last-minute navigation issue.

NASA paid $138 million to Intuitive Machines to deliver six experiments to the surface. Other customers also had items on board.

The Death of the Odysseus: From the First Moon Landing Mission to an International Space Station, NASA’s Lunar Navigation Device Fails

The 14-foot (4.3-meter) Odysseus came down on its side, making it difficult to talk to Earth. spotty communications were caused by antenna that were covered by the toppled lander and went to the ground. The panels ended up closer to the ground than expected, which is not ideal in the hilly terrain. Even under the best of circumstances, Odysseus only had a week to operate on the surface before the long lunar night set in.

Since the 1960s, only the U.S., Russia, China, India and Japan have successfully pulled off moon landings, and only the U.S. with crews. The lander from Japan ended up on the wrong side.

The first private business to join the elite group was Intuitive Machines. A fuel leak made it hard for the U.S. company, Astrobotic Technology, to get to the moon.

Intuitive Machines were almost doomed as well. Before the lander’s liftoff, ground teams didn’t turn on the switch for the navigation lasers. Flight controllers had to rely on a NASA laser-navigating device as an experiment after it was discovered that they had missed the oversight.

The astronauts walked on the moon from 1969 to 1972. While NASA put satellites around the moon it took the U.S. a month to launch another moon- landing mission. NASA’s program to promote commercial shipments to the moon was the first to fail.

Two JAXA Landers in the Solar Inertia: Shinichichori Sakai, SLIM, and Andrew Barber

SLIM was not designed to survive the deep cold night on the lunar surface, where temperatures drop below minus 130 degrees Celsius. Shinichiro Sakai, project manager for SLIM, said that JAXA engineers remained hopeful that they would make it through the night, but their message home was a nice surprise. He says they knew some of NASA’s Surveyors survived, so they should also have a chance.

He believes the lander’s communications system, onboard computer and solar panels are working. JAXA was attempting to take new images with a multi band spectroscopic camera used to study the composition of rocks.

During the lunar day, extreme heat also becomes a problem for SLIM. With the Sun high, its radio electronics overheat very quickly and Sakai says the team will need to wait for the temperature to cool later in the week before they restart scientific investigation.

The materials on the electronic circuit boards can have different contraction rates if they get too warm or cold. “It can generate significant twisting and stretching forces, and cause components or joints to crack or be pulled apart,” he says.

The two recent spacecraft were built within many constraints, in particular cost, which places limits on their size and technology. He says that the two landers got almost everything right, but went awry at the last moment.

However the teams have obtained lots of data that will inform future attempts. “The best way to land successfully is to keep trying and to learn from previous attempts,” says Barber.

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