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NASA shares more details about moon probe's rough landing

The probe landed at a higher altitude than its planned touchdown site, and was therefore moving faster than expected.
NASA shares more details about moon probe's rough landing
Posted at 5:47 PM, Feb 28, 2024

The private Odysseus moon lander fell over on the lunar surface when it broke one of its landing legs on touchdown, officials said Wednesday.

The rough landing limited the probe's ability to gather solar power. Intuitive Machines mission director Tim Crain says it's not clear if the probe will survive three weeks of cold and dark during the imminent lunar night.

NASA and Intuitive Machines gave a press conference Wednesday, sharing new photos that show damage to the lander's legs. Odysseus skidded and fell during landing, which made gathering power and sending communications difficult.

The lander also missed its intended landing site because it used an experimental navigation system. Mission planners made a snap decision to use the unproven guidance lasers during landing.

The main guidance system was reportedly rendered unusable due to worker error that took place before the mission launched from Earth.

The probe came down a mile wide of its relatively flat landing zone and touched down instead at a higher elevation. Because it reached the elevated surface sooner than expected, officials say it was descending too fast, broke one of its legs and ultimately tipped over.

Nonetheless, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson says the mission has been a success and that all of NASA's experiments aboard the lander were still working.

But, he said, "There’s a big difference on landing a crew and landing a bunch of instruments."

The Odysseus lander was NASA's latest effort to study promising lunar regions ahead of returning human crews to the surface as part of the Artemis program.

NASA says the first crewed landings will take place no earlier than September 2026.

SEE MORE: Odysseus moon lander's mission cut short due to its sideways arrival

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