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posted by hubie on Friday February 23, @01:00PM   Printer-friendly

After half-century absence, U.S. returns to moon as lunar lander Odysseus touches down:

America has returned to the moon after a 52-year absence. The unmanned Odysseus spacecraft touched down on the lunar surface shortly before 6:30 p.m. EST Thursday.

"We can confirm without a doubt that our equipment is on the surface and we are on the moon. Odysseus has found a new home," said Dr. Tim Crain, mission director of the IM-1, the first American private venture to send a module to the moon.

It's the first time the United States has had a new presence on the lunar surface since NASA's Apollo 11 in July 1969.

The Intuitive Machines Odysseus lunar lander, nicknamed "Odie" or "IM-1," settled on the moon's surface after a day's long trek but immediately began experiencing communication problems, preventing the transmission of data.

The general tone of this story here and elsewhere seems to be that this heralds a new era of a commercial space industry, but until one can show that there is any commercial value to being on the Moon besides directly supporting NASA/ESA/etc., is this a watershed moment, or is this just slightly expanding the potential NASA/ESA/etc. contractor pool? --hubie

Previously: Private US Moon Lander Successfully Launches 24 Hours After Flight Was Delayed


Original Submission

Related Stories

Private US Moon Lander Successfully Launches 24 Hours After Flight Was Delayed 4 comments

Private US Moon lander successfully launches 24 hours after flight was delayed:

A US PRIVATE Moon lander has successfully launched 24 hours after its flight was delayed due to fuel issues. The Nova-C Odysseus lander, built by Texas-based space flight company Intuitive Machines (IM), could become the first private mission – called IM-1 – to land intact on the lunar surface.

The Moon lander had lift-off at 6.05am Irish time this morning atop SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida, SpaceX posted on X (formerly Twitter).

It comes a month after another US spacecraft, Peregrine, failed to touch down following a fuel leak. The failure of Peregrine, operated by US company Astrobotic, marked the third time a private company had been unable to achieve a soft landing on the lunar surface.

The Beresheet lander, built by Israel's SpaceIL, crashed during descent in 2019, while the Hakuto-R M1 lander, from Japanese company ispace, was destroyed while attempting to land in April last year.

Odysseus would be the first US Moon landing since the final mission of the Apollo programme – Apollo 17 – more than 50 years ago. Odysseus is a hexagonal cylinder about 13ft (4m) tall and 5ft (1.57m) wide and weighs 1,488lb (675kg).

It is part of Nasa's Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, which aims to involve commercial companies in the exploration of the Moon as the space agency focuses on getting astronauts back there through its Artemis programme.

If all goes to plan, Odysseus could attempt a lunar landing on February 22. The landing site will be at Malapert A, a crater near the Moon's south pole. Once it is on the surface, Odysseus will operate for roughly two weeks, or one lunar day.


Original Submission

It Turns Out That Odysseus Landed on the Moon Without Any Altimetry Data 13 comments

https://arstechnica.com/space/2024/02/it-turns-out-that-odysseus-landed-on-the-moon-without-any-altimetry-data/

HOUSTON—Steve Altemus beamed with pride on Tuesday morning as he led me into Mission Control for the Odysseus lander, which is currently operating on the Moon and returning valuable scientific data to Earth. A team of about a dozen operators sat behind consoles, attempting to reset a visual processing unit onboard the lunar lander, one of their last, best chances to deploy a small camera that would snap a photo of Odysseus in action.

"I just wanted you to see the team," he said.
[...]
"You can say whatever you want to say," Altemus said. "But from my perspective, this is an absolute success of a mission. Holy crap. The things that you go through to fly to the Moon. The learning, just every step of the way, is tremendous."
[...]
As has been previously reported, Intuitive Machines discovered that the range finders on Odysseus were inoperable a couple of hours before it was due to attempt to land on the Moon last Thursday. This was later revealed to be due to the failure to install a pencil-sized pin and a wire harness that enabled the laser to be turned on and off.
[...]
the last accurate altitude reading the lander received came when it was 15 kilometers above the lunar surface—and still more than 12 minutes from touchdown.
[...]
By comparing imagery data frame by frame, the flight computer could determine how fast it was moving relative to the lunar surface. Knowing its initial velocity and altitude prior to initiating powered descent and using data from the inertial measurement unit (IMU) on board Odysseus, it could get a rough idea of altitude.
[...]
Unfortunately, as it neared the lunar surface, the lander believed it was about 100 meters higher relative to the Moon than it actually was.

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Friday February 23, @01:04PM (5 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday February 23, @01:04PM (#1345838)

    Apollo was deeply reliant on contractors for the LEM and other vehicles... I don't see this as any different, until the commercial entities start specifying, and funding, mission objectives. Until then, they are still contractors.

    --
    🌻🌻 [google.com]
    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Friday February 23, @01:15PM

      by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 23, @01:15PM (#1345840) Journal

      Same line, different angle

      The watershed moment was late 50-ies early-60-ies. Which, you know? is more like water-under-the-bridge today.

      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0 https://soylentnews.org/~MichaelDavidCrawford
    • (Score: 2) by Spamalope on Friday February 23, @05:17PM (3 children)

      by Spamalope (5233) on Friday February 23, @05:17PM (#1345892) Homepage

      It's hard to know yet. The represents private organizational ability, which we're seeing become more widespread. Looking back, this could be a footnote or an early baby step as things fundamentally change. Falcon re-use has already made multi-thousand sat constellations viable. I'd bet starship changes things again once it's in regular operation, especially once ULA or someone else steps up with a real competitor.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by khallow on Friday February 23, @01:46PM (5 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 23, @01:46PM (#1345844) Journal

    The general tone of this story here and elsewhere seems to be that this heralds a new era of a commercial space industry, but until one can show that there is any commercial value to being on the Moon besides directly supporting NASA/ESA/etc., is this a watershed moment, or is this just slightly expanding the potential NASA/ESA/etc. contractor pool? --hubie

    Right now, not much is going on. My take though is that the Moon could have a significant early industry once there's fueling of vehicles in Earth orbit. While the prices have gone down considerably, it's still somewhere around $1-2k per kg to put anything in LEO. Moon could beat that. Second, space tourism. I know a lot of people aren't impressed by billionaire tourists in space, but their money could kickstart that as well. Someone has to demonstrate the technology to support lunar tourism before it'll be funded.

    A third thing is that the Moon is near unique in that one can work on the Moon without actually being on the Moon via teleoperation. It's a bit over two seconds of round trip communication delay consistently (that is, you send a signal, such as a command to move something and then it takes two seconds for returning signals to show you the results of that command). No other large body in the Solar System is anywhere near that close. Aside from some asteroids, Venus is the next closest large body. At closest approach (42 million km), it's a bit under 5 minutes of round trip communication delay. Mars at 56 million km closest approach is next with a round trip delay of over six minutes. Of course, when these planets aren't right next to the Earth, the round trip delays can be much greater, two hours for Mars (ignoring the challenging problem of routing signals around the Sun).

    So the Moon can tap in a useful way the huge labor pool of Earth in a way that almost nothing else can in the Solar System.

    • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Friday February 23, @03:55PM (1 child)

      by Thexalon (636) on Friday February 23, @03:55PM (#1345862)

      And when the lunar residents get mad at the financial exploitation the Earthlings are imposing on them, what are they going to do, throw rocks at us [wikipedia.org]?

      --
      The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
      • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Friday February 23, @04:28PM

        by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 23, @04:28PM (#1345873) Journal

        what are they going to do, throw rocks at us?

        So the trick is to get them to throw the right kind of rocks, you know, the rocks that we want. And then the robots just have to go round and pick them up. I've got a business idea.....

    • (Score: 2) by agr on Friday February 23, @04:05PM (1 child)

      by agr (7134) on Friday February 23, @04:05PM (#1345867)

      Absolutely correct. I can’t think of anything that humans can do on the Moon that couldn’t be done more cheaply by robots, perhaps by a factor of 100. They can survive in vacuum, work continuously, and don’t need to be brought back to earth. The humans controlling them can work in shifts and go home after work, with zero personal risk. Macros can be developed (“pick up that rock”) and tested on Earth before uploading. Robots could be designed to be repaired by other robots. Only the electronics needs protection from radiation and even if a severe Solar storm wiped out all the electronics, a few fresh robots with a supply of spares could get everything running again.

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday February 23, @04:37PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 23, @04:37PM (#1345879) Journal
        Well, there is physical present space tourism. But keep in mind that the original observation was about commercial space industry on the Moon not humans physically on the Moon.
    • (Score: 2) by Spamalope on Friday February 23, @04:34PM

      by Spamalope (5233) on Friday February 23, @04:34PM (#1345876) Homepage

      We'll have folks on the Moon for PR, and to develop tech for resource exploitation further out. It won't make private financial sense until advancing tech produces a new niche where it's cheaper/better to do it. (other than a handful of folks for the unanticipated once there is significant automated presence).
      I'm betting there will be something that drives settlement eventually. It may just be because the prices fall and it's cheap because we build multiple space elevators and orbital mass launchers. At that point - vacation destination and resort staff would be enough...

  • (Score: 2) by looorg on Friday February 23, @02:39PM (8 children)

    by looorg (578) on Friday February 23, @02:39PM (#1345850)

    This must be a bit of a headache for all those fake moon-landing people. Or is this one fake to? Also are all the things where we left the last time around or have the ancient aliens been there and moved things around?

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by GlennC on Friday February 23, @02:56PM

      by GlennC (3656) on Friday February 23, @02:56PM (#1345853)

      LOL...you're one of those people who believes in the Moon!....LOL

      /sarc

      --
      Sorry folks...the world is bigger and more varied than you want it to be. Deal with it.
    • (Score: 5, Funny) by DannyB on Friday February 23, @03:33PM (4 children)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 23, @03:33PM (#1345859) Journal

      <no-sarcasm>
      I've come to accept that we now live in a world where some people simply cannot distinguish reality from outlandish fantasy or outright lies. I just don't engage with them, except to make fun of them.
      </no-sarcasm>

      I would point out the impossibility of landing something on the moon. Some people mistakenly believe that the phases of the moon are caused by the Earth's shadow falling on the moon. That is impossible because the moon's gravity is only 1/6 of Earth's gravity and therefore the moon is unable to pull Earth's shadow to the lunar surface. If the moon cannot pull the Earth's shadow to the lunar surface, how could it possibly exert any force upon a spacecraft.

      Q. Why do we have phases of the moon?
      A. Because when the moon is full and bright, it shines all its light out until it is empty. Then the moon must sit on the charger for a while until it charges back up to a full moon again. During this cycle, the light within the moon has plenty of time to ferment properly. (so don't look at the moon for too long!)

      --
      To transfer files: right-click on file, pick Copy. Unplug mouse, plug mouse into other computer. Right-click, paste.
      • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Friday February 23, @03:38PM (3 children)

        by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 23, @03:38PM (#1345861) Journal
        I have just noticed you sig - you owe me a new keyboard!
        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday February 23, @04:16PM

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 23, @04:16PM (#1345870) Journal

          I started to reply here, but then thought better of it.

          I decided it might be more important to spread the word in this journal article. [soylentnews.org]

          --
          To transfer files: right-click on file, pick Copy. Unplug mouse, plug mouse into other computer. Right-click, paste.
        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday February 23, @04:19PM (1 child)

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 23, @04:19PM (#1345871) Journal

          I change out my sigs very regularly.

          I only worry that if SN were to disappear I have so many future sigs that would never see the light of day.

          Thank goodness new keyboards are only about $4 at Micro Center in an aisle end cap basket.

          --
          To transfer files: right-click on file, pick Copy. Unplug mouse, plug mouse into other computer. Right-click, paste.
          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday February 23, @04:51PM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 23, @04:51PM (#1345885) Journal
            Same here. I have so many future sigs. Truly lights under a bushel.
    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday February 23, @04:47PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday February 23, @04:47PM (#1345882) Journal
      They put those things on the Moon when they brought it in for it's monthly repainting.
    • (Score: 3, Touché) by DadaDoofy on Sunday February 25, @06:53PM

      by DadaDoofy (23827) on Sunday February 25, @06:53PM (#1346220)

      Have you cooked up a new conspiracy theory in which all the unmanned missions to the moon were faked? The only conspiracy theories I've ever heard or seen about faked moon landings involve NASA's Apollo program, which consisted entirely of manned missions.

  • (Score: 2) by DadaDoofy on Friday February 23, @06:32PM (1 child)

    by DadaDoofy (23827) on Friday February 23, @06:32PM (#1345916)
    From TFA, but not surprisingly, left out of TFS:

    "The spacecraft was launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9"

    <pops open Dom Perignon/>
    • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 23, @09:46PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 23, @09:46PM (#1345967)

      That is a very interesting takeaway from this story.

  • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Friday February 23, @09:26PM

    by bzipitidoo (4388) on Friday February 23, @09:26PM (#1345960) Journal

    The "general tone" that commercial interests can exploit situations better and more efficiently than any other kind of organization is getting kind of tired, don't you think? The transcontinental railroads may be the closest match to the current situation and dreams. The railroads were building into territory inhabited only very lightly by natives, with the expectation that by making settlement easier, they would attract settlers who would then need the services of the railroad. It mostly worked. But that's not all that close a match. Settling the western US was far easier than settling the Moon will be. So severe are the difficulties of colonizing the Moon that it may never be done. May never be profitable.

    What does that leave? Mining? Do all the smelting and processing on the Moon, and send only the most valuable materials to Earth? Yeah, if we had a space elevator. Without that, the expense of transport is too high to make that worthwhile. Do they suppose they can drive down the transport costs to the point it is worthwhile?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 24, @01:21AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 24, @01:21AM (#1345984)

    Latest news [apnews.com] is reporting the lander is toppled onto its side. Still alive though.

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