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    5. The reasons for the failure of the American Odyssey mission ..


    The reasons for the failure of the American Odyssey mission on the Moon have been revealed

    Shares of the lunar lander manufacturer collapsed

    The flight of the American spacecraft Odysseus to the Moon will be interrupted after a side landing. Mission control engineers expect a loss of communications with the privately owned U.S. lunar lander Odysseus on Tuesday, leading to a mission abort five days after its lateral landing, said Intuitive Machines, the company that developed the spacecraft.

    It remains to be seen how much scientific data could be lost by shortening the life of Odyssey, which would have otherwise lasted seven to 10 days on the Moon, according to previous estimates by the company and its biggest customer, NASA.

    The company's forecast of a premature end to the mission comes as new details emerged about testing shortcuts and human error that led to the spacecraft's laser-guided rangefinders failing before its landing on the Moon last Thursday.

    An Intuitive Machines spokesman said the loss of the rangefinders was due to the company's decision to forego pre-launch testing of the laser system to save time and money during Odysseus' pre-flight checks at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

    “There were certainly things we could do to test it and actually get it up and running. It would take a very long time and would be very expensive,” Mike Hansen, the company's head of navigation systems, said in an interview with Reuters on Saturday. “So it was a risk as a company that we recognized and took that risk.”

    Intuitive Machines said Friday that laser rangefinders designed to transmit altitude and forward speed readings to an autonomous navigation system Odysseus were inoperable because the company's engineers forgot to unlock the lasers' safety switch before the February 15 launch. The lock, similar to a firearm's safety, can only be disengaged manually.

    A rangefinder malfunction discovered just hours before the final descent forced controllers to improvise an experimental detour to avoid what could have been a catastrophic emergency landing.

    Mike Hansen, the engineer who created the software “patch” that solved the problem, said the company has yet to determine whether an improvised navigation solution that used an experimental system supplied by NASA to the lander could have contributed to the spacecraft's sideways landing.

    The company said during its first press briefing after landing on Friday that Odyssey caught the underside of one of its six landing legs on the rough lunar surface during its final descent and capsized, coming to rest horizontally, apparently leaning on the stone.

    Intuitive Machines executives speculated that the spacecraft's forward speed during landing, about twice as fast as expected, may have been a factor in the stumble. But it was unclear whether the use of the original laser rangefinders would have made any difference.

    In any case, Odysseus's side-mounted position significantly limited the exposure of its solar panels to sunlight needed to recharge its batteries. What's more, two of its antennas were pointed toward the ground, making it difficult to communicate with the lander, the company said Friday.

    Intuitive Machines executives said at the time that engineering teams would need more time to assess how this would affect overall flight.

    In an update posted online Monday, the Houston-based company said: “Dispatchers intend to collect data until the lander's solar panels are no longer exposed to light. Based on the positions of the Earth and Moon, we believe controllers will continue to communicate with Odyssey until Tuesday morning, five days after landing.

    NASA, which has several research instruments on board, said the payloads were designed to operate for seven days on solar power before sunset over the landing site near the moon's south pole.

    Company executives told reporters on Friday, the day after Odysseus landed, that its payload will be able to operate for about nine or 10 days in a “best-case scenario.”

    Shares in Intuitive Machines fell 35% on Monday, The Guardian reports.

    Despite its less than perfect landing, Odyssey became the first American spacecraft to land on the moon since 1972. Astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt took NASA's final crewed Apollo mission to the lunar surface.

    It was also the first lunar landing of a commercially produced and operated spacecraft and the first of NASA's Artemis program. , which aims to return astronauts to Earth's natural satellite this decade before China lands its crewed spacecraft there.

    Intuitive Machines said it spent about $100 million on the lander and received $118 million dollars from NASA as part of the agency's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, a low-budget effort to encourage competitive commercial missions to the Moon.

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