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US lunar lander to lose control, end mission in advance

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-02-27 17:02
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This image courtesy of Nasa, shows NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter capturing this image of the Intuitive Machines' Nova-C lander, called Odysseus, on the Moon's surface on Feb 24, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

LOS ANGELES - US company Intuitive Machines' first lunar lander Odysseus will lose control and end its mission earlier than expected on Tuesday morning, the company said on Monday.

The lander will lose communication with flight controllers in Huston due to its solar panels off work by early morning Tuesday. This will cut the mission short for two to three days from a week expected by NASA and other customers, according to US media reports.

The uncrewed lander landed at the lunar South Pole last Thursday, marking the first American spacecraft to land on the lunar surface in more than 50 years.

Although the Odysseus touched down on the lunar surface, analysis of data by flight engineers showed the six-legged spacecraft tripped over its own feet during its final descent, said Intuitive Machines CEO Stephen Altemus. The spacecraft was believed to have caught one of its landing feet on the uneven lunar surface and came to rest sideways.

"Flight controllers intend to collect data until the lander's solar panels are no longer exposed to light. Based on Earth and Moon positioning, we believe flight controllers will continue to communicate with Odysseus until Tuesday morning," said the company.

After understanding the end-to-end communication requirements, Odysseus sent images from the lunar surface of its vertical descent to its Malapert A landing site, representing the furthest south any vehicle has been able to land on the Moon and establish communication with ground controllers, according to the company.

Odysseus carries NASA science and other commercial payloads to the Moon.

The last US moon landing mission was made in December 1972, when Apollo 17 touched down on the lunar surface for the final mission of the Apollo Program.

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