Intuitive machines is taking a shot at the first commercial lunar landing
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Houston-based space company Intuitive Machines is gearing up for an actual moonshot at the end of this month, when it’ll try to land a spacecraft named Odysseus on the lunar surface — ideally without it breaking in the process. The mission follows Astrobotic’s unsuccessful attempt in January; that company’s lander, Peregrine, never made it to the moon due to a propellant leak that cut its journey short. Peregrine’s failure means Intuitive Machines’ IM-1If it reaches the moon intact, it could be the first commercial mission to land on it.
Intuitive Machines is hoping to make its landing attempt on February 22, targeting the Malapert A crater near the moon’s south pole for touchdown. This arrival date is dependent on Odysseus, one of the company’s Nova-C class landers, leaving Earth atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sometime between February 14 and February 16. The launch window will open at 12:57AM on Wednesday.
Odysseus was the first of many heroes. three Nova-C landers Intuitive Machines plans to send to the moon this year, all of which will have commercial payloads on board and NASA instruments as contracted under the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. The lander stands at 14 feet tall (4.3 metres) and can carry up to 130kg of cargo. Its mission, if it nails a soft landing, will be a short but potentially valuable one for informing future excursions to the region, including NASA’s upcoming crewed Artemis missions. Orbiting probes discovered water ice at South Pole of the Moon, which could be used as fuel or for astronauts’ subsistence.
The solar-powered craft and any functional equipment it’s carrying are only expected to be in working condition for about a week before the onset of lunar night, a 14-day period of frigid darkness that the company says will leave the lander inoperable. But while everything’s up and running, the various instruments will gather data at the surface. NASA awarded Intuitive Machines an $77 million contract in 2019 for the delivery its payloads. Six NASA instruments have now been mounted on Odysseus.
One of the Laser Retroreflector Arrays (LRA) will “function as a permanent location mark”NASA says that the lander will use its position on the surface of the moon to help incoming spacecraft measure their distance. The lander will also carry the Navigation Doppler LIDAR sensor for Precise velocity and range sensing (NDL), which measures altitude and speed to guide the descent.
NASA is also sending instruments to study surface plumes — everything that gets kicked up when the lander touches down — along with radio waves and the effects of space weather. The Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume and Surface Studies (SCALPSS) will take images of these dust plumes. Also included is the Radio wave Observation of the Lunar Surface using the photoElectron Sheath instrument (ROLSES).
The rest are commercial payloads. Columbia Sportswear worked with Intuitive Machines to incorporate the brand’s Apollo-inspired Omni-Heat Infinity thermal reflective material, which is being used for this mission to help protect the cryogenic propulsion tank, according to Intuitive Machines. EagleCam is a camera developed by students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. It will attempt to separate itself from the lander and take a photo of the moment. EagleCam also comes with an experimental dust removal system.
Jeff Koons is even sending some sculptures to the Moon, which will have NFT and physical counterparts back on Earth. In Koons’ Moon Phase piece, 125 small stainless steel sculptures of the moon at different phases are encased in a clear cube made by 4Space, with the names of important historical figures from around the world listed below each sphere. The International Lunar Observatory Association, based in Hawaii, and Canadensys Aerospace are sending a 1.3-pound dual-camera system called ILO-X, with which they’ll attempt to capture wide and narrow field images of the Milky Way from the moon.
Odysseus carries a small disc called “Lunagrams”Galactic Legacy Labs will be releasing a series of messages, including audio, images, and text, that are based on Earthly messages. These messages include archives and data from major databases like the Arch Mission Foundation or the English-language Wikipedia. Peregrine sent similar archival material to space last month. Lonestar Information Technology plans to demonstrate their Disaster Recovery as a Service. (DRaaS). by storing documents on the lander, and transmitting them between Earth and Moon. It’ll follow this up with a prototype mini data center on Intuitive Machines’ next launch.
Now, the pressure’s on the Odysseus Nova C lander to reach the lunar surface safely. This year started off rocky for moon missions, with the failure of Astrobotic’s Peregrine and a descent hiccup that caused JAXA’s SLIM spacecraft to faceplant into the lunar surface (though the latter was Amazingly, I was able to resume my functionsAfter a few days, the degree of difficulty will decrease. Intuitive Machines will have other chances to get it right if it doesn’t this time — it has multiple missions already booked up — but only one private lander can be “first.”
Original content by Engadget.com. “Intuitive machine’s is trying to nail the first moon landing commercially”
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