The Odysseus lunar mission ends following human error on Earth

The Odysseus lunar mission ends following human error on Earth
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter finds Odysseus
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter finds Odysseus
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NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter finds Odysseus
NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter finds Odysseus
Lunar surface as seen from Odysseus during its landing approach
Lunar surface as seen from Odysseus during its landing approach
Image of the lunar surface returned by Odysseus
Image of the lunar surface returned by Odysseus
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The IM-1 Moon landing mission will come to a premature end on Tuesday morning. Intuitive Machines has announced that the Odysseus lander will no longer be able to charge its batteries by February 27 as sunlight stops falling on its solar panels.

Today's announcement is a bittersweet end for a mission that survived tipping over on landing and the failure of a vital navigation system due to human error. When 'Odie' touched down on the Moon on February 22, it did so with the aid of a NASA experimental navigation system that had been patched into the lander's software as the spacecraft approached the Moon.

It was an impressive bit of improvisation, but it turns out that the reason why this had to be done was due to a simple human oversight. The Nova-C class lander's landing navigation system relied on lasers to estimate speed, direction, and position. Unfortunately, these lasers posed a hazard to the eyes of prelaunch technicians, so the system couldn't be programmed to activate automatically. Instead, a physical switch had to be thrown before launch.

But, it wasn't.

Lunar surface as seen from Odysseus during its landing approach
Lunar surface as seen from Odysseus during its landing approach

Despite these setbacks, the flight engineers have managed to maintain communications with Odysseus and have retrieved new images from the lander. Some of these were taken by Odie during its lunar approach, and they show nine safe potential landing sites as well as an area with permanently shadowed craters that may contain water ice and other resources.

In addition, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera team have spied Odysseus on the Moon's surface and conformed its position as 80.13° S and 1.44° E, which is 1.5 km (one mile) from its intended Malapert A landing site – the closest landing yet to the lunar south pole.

Though the IM-1 mission has been less than perfect and is ending over a week earlier than hoped, Intuitive Machines has emphasized that its landers are not one-off exploration vehicles. They are designed to be commercial workhorses for carrying payloads for government and private customers to the Moon at much lower costs than NASA vehicles, so the loss of one spacecraft on one mission is seen as an acceptable trade-off.

Source: Intuitive Machines

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Captain Danger
I think the pre-flight checklist will be modified on the next launch.
It must have been a cost cutting measure to not have remote control over laser power.
Steve Hislop
The reason the Apollo-program was such a success, was that they either made everything as simple as possible or redundant.
Calculated risks were treated as such: risks but not probable. This way they could make progress, even after the fire of Apollo 1.
That such a safety related issue stops the whole mission here, is typical for today´s attitude.
The spacecraft was made so safe for the engineers on earth (which are obviously are not treated as adults by their company),
that it could not be made to work its mission on the Moon. Perfect.
Reminds me on the Goodwill messages transportet to the Moon by Apollo 11 on a small silicone disc:
"May the high courage and the technical genius which made this achievement possible be so used in the future that mankind will live in a universe in which
peace, self expression, and the chance of dangerous adventure are available to all.
John Gorton
Prime Minister of Australia"
No chance for a dangerous adventure was given here...
Human error? No human design deficincies by a company that shouldnt be given the contract for engineering a top heavy tippy lander which now has the name 'Tippy'
No mention of what happens when the sun re emerges. Is there no chance it’ll come back online?
I think this might be due to the separating of responsibilities of the development team. If one section's responsibility is safety of workers, then they have no reason to compromise that safety for mission success. I expect a lot of engineering projects fail due to politics and bureaucracy.
fluke meter
seems curious to me that they would choose to put a switch on it vs just test in a room with laser safety equipment like labs all over the place have.
Also curious that with the supposedly cost of each ounce sent to space they would launch the device with a physical switch which was only meant for ground test use.
launch checklist anyone?
Why didn't a pre-flight systems check pick this up?
Forgetting to throw the laser switch prior to launch is the stuff of technician nightmares. I wonder if they realized it before the approach procedures started failing...
Brian M
Typical Health and Safety!

Apparently on the next launch its been propose that Heath and Safety dept will need to check under the rocket if the engines are firing safely....
Not switching the laser power back on prior to launch was obviously a process error, and will be remedied in future pre-launches. To those commenters saying that having the switch was 'bureaucracy', or that technicians were 'not treated as adults', you need to think and read a little deeper. From interpreting the article, a physical switch was incorporated to prevent accidental, automatic activation of the lasers. If activation occurred when a technician's eye was aligned with the laser, they would quite possibly lose sight in that eye. Therefore this is a serious risk, and the designers have taken appropriate action, which is to include a form of lock-out, which is a common risk control used by engineers with common sense the world over.
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