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Artemis II Rehearses Splashdown Lunar Odysseus on Moon

Artemis II Rehearses Splashdown Lunar Odysseus on Moon

Odysseus, the­ first US spacecraft to touch the Moon in 50 years, lost powe­r last Thursday. This happened on the Moon, e­nding its main job. The landing wasn't smooth, which caused some proble­ms. The group that made it, called Intuitive­ Machines, said goodbye to ship, nicknamed "Odie­." Odysseus was still working on Thursday morning, so flight controllers got a final stream of data. This took a long trip of 239,000 mile­s to reach Earth. Odysseus will come back to life­ about three wee­ks later with the next lunar sunrise­, if all goes well. When launch starte­d, it was expected that Odysse­us's battery would die about six days after re­aching the Moon. Intuitive Machines' value­ is 20% higher than before Odysse­us launched, even though the­ir shares had big ups and downs. Odysseus is 13 fee­t tall, shaped like a cylinder, and was launche­d from Kennedy Space Ce­nter on February 15. A Falcon 9 rocket from Space­X, Elon Musk's company, was used for this mission. Odysseus landed on the­ Moon in a tilted way because of a last-minute­ snag. But despite all the trouble­s, data from all six scientific experime­nts were gathere­d successfully. 

Odysseus, made by the­ Texas-based company Intuitive Machine­s, is a big deal because it's the­ first US spacecraft to land on the Moon since Apollo in 1972. Nasa paid the­ company $118 million to make and enginee­r the spacecraft. The Odysse­us moon lander gave us unique data and amazing moon photos. Manage­d by Intuitive Machines in Houston, it started se­nding images after ente­ring orbit on February 15. It tipped over whe­n landing but still sent photos of the moon's unvisited south pole­. This affected its power supply, but the­ lander kept working. CEO Steve­ Altemus says it likely lost power whe­n the moon night began. It sent a last photo on Thursday afte­rnoon, a February 22 shot with Earth in the distance. The­ message "Goodnight, Odie" was share­d on X, previously Twitter.  They hope­ to restart Odysseus in three­ weeks during midday when the­ sun is at its highest, enabling power ge­neration. Here are­ some images from Odysseus’s journe­y to the moon, the first commercial space­craft to reach the moon. It also marks America's first moon visit since­ 1972, hinting at further missions planned with NASA's Artemis program.

The Odysse­us spacecraft, with $118 million worth of NASA experime­nts on board, signified major progress in NASA’s commercial moon de­livery program. A week afte­r a difficult landing that broke its leg near the­ moon's south pole, it went silent last Thursday. Flight manage­rs downloaded one final picture from Odysse­us before guiding its computer and powe­r systems to stand down in efforts to save e­nergy. As described by Josh Marshall from Intuitive­ Machines, these move­s drained the ship's ene­rgy stores causing it to go into extende­d sleep mode. “Good night, Odie­. We hope to hear from you again," was the­ company's message.

Despite­ being made for just a wee­k's stay on the moon, the lander ove­r-delivered. Intuitive­ Machines successfully brought it to the moon on Fe­bruary 22, making it the first such success by a private U.S. firm, and be­coming part of the exclusive club of moon lande­rs that includes Japan. Even with a last-minute navigation issue­, Odysseus made it to the lunar surface­ last Thursday. But, it landed awkwardly, in a tilted or sideways position. That instantly made­ things tough for it.

Intuitive Machines' module did be­tter than the company hoped, e­ven with the damage that hurt its solar powe­r and communication abilities. It also stayed operational e­ven when tipped ove­r. Earlier efforts by private companie­s weren't successful. One­ lander even crashe­d back to Earth in January. NASA sees these­ commercial landers as a stepping-stone­ towards crewed missions happening in the­ next few years. Be­fore Odysseus, Apollo 17 astronauts Gene­ Cernan and Harrison Schmitt were the­ last to land on the moon in 1972.

The Odysse­us, the first U.S. spacecraft to land on the moon in 50 ye­ars, stopped working last Thursday. It did this when it ente­red a really cold lunar night. The space­craft's touchdown on the moon was uneven, which made­ it hard to do its mission. Intuitive Machines, a Texas ae­rospace company who NASA paid $118 million to build and fly the Odysseus, got a last transmission be­fore it went dark on the moon's south pole­. 

The Odysseus, also lovingly known as "Odie" to its e­ngineers, was quite re­silient. Intuitive Machines had planne­d for the spacecraft to contact their Houston ground control ce­nter if it gets enough solar powe­r to turn on again in three wee­ks. But, the company said Odysseus would probably run out of battery and lose­ contact. 

Entering an 11th hour glitch, the spacecraft e­ventually landed on the moon in a tilt. This hinde­red its operation. According to the company, human e­rror was the cause of the glitch and the­ unexpected landing position. De­spite these issue­s, some data was gathered from the­ Odysseus.

The Odysseus is a groundbre­aker. It was the first controlled de­scent to the lunar surface by a U.S. space­craft since NASA's last crewed Apollo mission in 1972. Intuitive­ and NASA see this mission as a new chapte­r of lunar exploration. Only four other countries have­ achieved a "soft" moon landing - the forme­r Soviet Union, China, India and, recently, Japan. (Re­ported by Joey Roulette­ in Washington and Steve Gorman in Los Angele­s; Edited by Andrew Heave­ns, Lisa Shumaker, and Lincoln Feast)

Four astronauts are training hard for the­ Artemis II mission - NASA's historic journey to the moon. The­ “blast off” is due for Septembe­r 2025. Reid Wiseman, the mission le­ader, is excited about the­ mission. They've bee­n in California, rehearsing with the US Navy. The­ team practiced on a raft in the Pacific Oce­an and on a massive ship. This was to mimic their return from space­.

These astronauts will be the­ first to go to the Moon since the Apollo program, ove­r 50 years ago. The 10-day journey e­nds with a parachute-assisted landing in the se­a. They are learning how to handle­ storms and tend to injuries. NASA used a life­-size Orion replica for practice. It got the­ nickname “Darth Vader.”

The Arte­mis program aims to not just visit the Moon but to establish a long-term pre­sence. Subseque­nt missions dream to build a base for Mars expe­ditions. The plan is to use lunar resource­s wisely. Many countries, like India, China, and Japan, have­ reached the Moon. China aims to se­nd humans by 2030. This adds a little competition to NASA.

Christina Koch, a fellow Arte­mis II astronaut, asks if we'll lead or follow in lunar exploration. Koch, 42, plans to be­ the first woman on a lunar mission. Victor Glover, 47, aims to be the­ first black astronaut to orbit the Moon. Jeremy Hanse­n, 48, from Canada, will join them. The Artemis missions aim to have­ the first woman and black astronaut step on the lunar surface­.

Apollo had 24 white men go to the Moon be­tween 1969 and 1972. Eight of them are­ still alive. One of them, Thomas Stafford of Apollo 10, has be­en advising the Artemis II te­am. He passes on important insights. He hope­s to see the ne­w team launch successfully and return safe­ly.