Intuitive Machines says Odysseus lander likely to live 10 to 20 hours – February 27, 2024 at 4:04 p.m.

Odysseus, the first American spacecraft to land on the moon since 1972, has about 10 to 20 hours of battery life, according to flight controllers who remain in contact with the robotic lander.

Texas-based Intuitive Machines said Tuesday that flight controllers were in contact with the Odysseus lunar lander and that the spacecraft transmitted science data and images in the morning. NASA paid Intuitive $118 million to build the spacecraft and fly it to the moon, carrying science instruments for the US space agency and several commercial customers.

The spacecraft landed on Friday, but the timeline of seven to 10 days is expected to be shortened after the side landing.

Shares fell 8% on Tuesday after Intuitive said it was still in contact with the lander. However, the stock has erased most of its gains since late last week.

It remains to be seen how much research data and photographs of the various payloads will not be collected due to Odysseus’s short lifespan.

The Nova-C lander was launched on February 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The six-legged vehicle reached lunar orbit six days later.

Odysseus made the final descent on the lunar surface, landing near his destination in the lunar south pole region the next day, February 22, despite a navigational failure at the eleventh hour.

The spacecraft’s first radio signals were unexpectedly weak, confirming that the craft had reached the surface intact, but indicating that something was wrong.

Technicians determined that Odysseus struck the foot of one of the landing legs on the moon’s bumpy surface as it approached to land and flipped over before coming to a horizontal stop, apparently propped up on a rock, executives said on February 23.

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Intuitive later admitted that the lander’s sideways position caused two of its communications antennas to point downward, rendering them inoperable and reducing the solar panel’s exposure to sunlight, limiting the batteries’ ability to charge.

Company officials said that only one of NASA’s six experiments appeared to be physically disabled, and that the needs of all commercial payloads could still be met.

The company said Monday that flight engineers expected darkness to fall on Odysseus on Tuesday morning, once sunlight could no longer reach the solar panels, based on calculations of the positions of the Earth and the Moon. (Reporting by Steve Gorman, Joy Rowlett and Akash Sriram; Editing by David Gavin and Sriraj Kalluvilla)

Winton Frazier

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