US makes history with first Moon landing since 1972, but there's one major problem

For the first time since the Apollo era, the United States has landed new NASA science instruments and tech demonstrations on the surface of the Moon.

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US space exploration history books have a new entry as the first privately built Moon lander has touched down on the surface of the Moon, marking the first U.S.-built spacecraft to do so since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

The first US company to achieve a Moon landing is Houston-based Intuitive Machines, which partnered with NASA to construct and send the Odysseus lunar lander to the surface of Earth's closest neighbor. The scientific community held their breath as Odysseus descended to its designated landing location near the lunar south pole, and on February 22, the touchdown was confirmed. Odysseus is equipped with NASA science instruments and tech demonstrations that are expected to still be functional after Odysseus encountered its big problem.

While the landing was deemed successful and Intuitive Machines announced Odysseus was "upright", Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus announced during a press conference that the aforementioned claim the lunar lander was upright was based on "stale telemetry" sourced from the lander's fuel gauges, and Odysseus is likely laying on its side. Altemus said that the phone-booth-sized spacecraft likely tipped over due to one of its feet being caught up on a rock during entry, or it's stuck in a crevasse, or simply lying on a lunar slope.

"We're hopeful to get pictures and really do an assessment of the structure and assessment of all the external equipment," Mr Altemus told reporters. "So far, we have quite a bit of operational capability even though we're tipped over. And so that's really exciting for us, and we are continuing the surface operations mission as a result of it."

Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus demonstrating the likely orientation of Odysseus

Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus demonstrating the likely orientation of Odysseus

Despite this disappointing outcome of a smooth landing, Intuitive Machines has said not all hope is lost as data analysis indicates some of its solar arrays are able to generate power, along with some of its antennas already being in the right orientation to communicate with Earth.

"We do have antennas, however, that are pointed at the surface, and those antennas are unusable for transmission back to Earth," he added. "And so, that really is a limiter. Our ability to communicate and get the right data down, so that we get everything we need for the mission, I think, is the most compromised from being on its side."

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NEWS SOURCES:bbc.com, sciencealert.com

Jak joined the TweakTown team in 2017 and has since reviewed 100s of new tech products and kept us informed daily on the latest science, space, and artificial intelligence news. Jak's love for science, space, and technology, and, more specifically, PC gaming, began at 10 years old. It was the day his dad showed him how to play Age of Empires on an old Compaq PC. Ever since that day, Jak fell in love with games and the progression of the technology industry in all its forms. Instead of typical FPS, Jak holds a very special spot in his heart for RTS games.

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