Morning JAVA: Oops, I Tipped Over!

Morning JAVA: Oops, I Tipped Over!

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Odysseus Moon Lander Tips Over


On Thursday, February 22, 2024 a private American company, Intuitive Machines made history by landing a small refrigerator sized space craft named Odysseus, laden with multiple payloads, on the moon. This marked the first time in more than 5 decades that an American made lander made it to the moon.

Six days earlier, Odysseus blasted off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Odysseus carried 12 payloads, 6 of which are NASA's as part of the Artemis Campaign, which plans to send people back to the moon and eventually, to Mars. 

Amazingly, the lander arrived at the moon a day early so they let it make a complete orbit around the moon once before attempting to land. When they tried a pre-landing maneuver, they discovered a safety lock on Odysseus' laser range finder was not disengaged before take-off, rendering it inoperable and an autonomous landing would have to be executed.

Fortunately, quick thinking engineers got to work to reprogram Odysseus to use an experimental laser range finder that had been included among NASA's six payloads. Had they not tested and discovered the safety lock issue in a pre-landing maneuver, they would have only discovered it 5 minutes before the actual landing. The reprogramming worked and Odysseus was able to land but it took a while to get confirmation.

When confirmation came with a photograph taken from the lander, it clearly shows as laying on its side. Fortunately, it suffered minimal damage and its solar panels are aligned in such a way that it's getting sunlight to power the lander's many instruments. Some of its antennas are also functional.

We've since learned Odysseus came down at 6 mph and moving across at 2 mph. It's assumed that upon touchdown, the lander hit a rock or some other debris and tipped over.

It's not easy landing a rover on the moon. The Israelis have tried. So have the Japanese. Both landers crashed on landing although India was successful in landing a lander and rover last August.

For this mission, Odysseus was sent to land in the South Pole region of the moon and collect data on the surrounding environment. The area has permanently shadowed craters which may contain reservoirs of water / ice. NASA plans to send astronauts to this region in 2026. Finding water could support future missions and to eventually set up moon bases.

Intuitive Machines' stock has also gone on a wild journey in the last week or so. Before the launch, its stock was around 50 cents. It quickly rose to $2.60 by February 23. Since the news of Odysseus tipping over, the stock has dipped to $1.14 at time of writing, although the stock is still up more than 250% from its low of 32 cents on January 29.

While Odysseus is indeed tipped over, I think the mission is a great success. It's part of an even greater mission, to get humans on the moon and beyond.  Because of its position, the sun will set on that region in about a week's time, shutting down all of Odysseus' instruments. Then, it will go into a deep lunar freeze. Its electronics were not designed to withstand the cold so they don't expect Odysseus to survive. Still, when the sun finally rises again in that region, they'll turn their dishes towards Odysseus to check if any instruments survived the deep cold. If there's any communication with the spacecraft, it's bound to make headlines. India's spacecraft was also put into sleep mode during a lunar night. When the sun came back, things didn't turn out as hoped.

There's a lot of activity with regards to outer space exploration. NASA successfully sent Osiris_Rex to the asteroid Bennu to collect samples, then brought it back to Earth. The samples show evidence of high carbon and water content, building blocks for life. SpaceX has now successfully launched and relaunched several rockets including the Falcon Heavy which has more than five million pounds of thrust (about eighteen 747 airliners). After 9 launches to date, there have been 17 stage One sections that have safely landed and have already been reused 14 times. The Falcon Heavy can lift payloads up to about 141,000 pounds or 64 metric tons into orbit. The platform ship SpaceX's stage one rockets land on is called, 'Of course, I still love you'.

Recently, NASA was having a look around the surface of mars with the Perseverance rover, launched from Earth, July 30, 2020. The James Webb Space Telescope, it's just been announced, has discovered a 13 billion year old galaxy that shouldn't exist as it appears bigger than the Milky Way which was previously not thought to exist that early on in the universe.



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Name's Joe and I live in Ontario, Canada. I like writing on a wide variety of topics. I enjoy keeping track of markets, investing and commodities and the crypto sector. Also do some coding for web browsers.

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