The bad news is that Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lander is tipped on its side after getting tripped up during its touchdown near the south pole of the moon. The good news? The plucky robotic spacecraft is nevertheless able to send back data.
Mission managers at the Houston-based company and at NASA, which is paying $118 million to support Odysseus’ space odyssey, are working on ways to maximize the scientific payback over the next nine or 10 days. “The vehicle is stable, near or at our intended landing site,” Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus said today during a post-landing briefing at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “We do have communications with the lander … so that’s phenomenal to begin with.”
Just by surviving the descent a day earlier, Odysseus made it into the history books as the first commercial lander to arrive safely on the moon — and the first U.S.-built spacecraft to do so since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
I can remember seeing images of SN1987A as it developed back in 1987. It was the explosion of a star, a supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Over the decades that followed, it was closely monitored in particular the expanding debris cloud. Predictions suggested there may be a neutron star or even a black hole at the core but the resolution of the telescopes was insufficient to pick anything up. Now we have the James Webb Space Telescope and using its more powerful technology, signs of a neutron star have been detected.
On Wednesday, February 21st, at 01:40 p.m. PST (04:40 p.m. EST), an interesting package returned to Earth from space. This was the capsule from the W-1 mission, an orbital platform manufactured by California-based Varda Space Industries, which landed at the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR). Even more interesting was the payload, which consisted of antiviral drugs grown in the microgravity environment of Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The mission is part of the company’s goal to develop the infrastructure to make LEO more accessible to commercial industries.
The Sun is heading toward solar maximum (which is likely to be about a year away) and as it does, there will be more sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections. Over the last 24 hours there has been three, yes three X-class flares, the first peaking at X1.9, the second 1.7 and the final one a mighty 6.3. Flares of this magnitude caused radio blackouts, disruption to mobile phones and radio transmissions.
As stars in the Milky Way move through space, some of them have an unexpected effect on the Solar System. Over time, one comes closer to the Sun during its orbit in the galaxy. Some of them actually get within a light-year of our star and pass through the Oort Cloud. Such close flybys can affect the orbits of the outer planets and send cometary nuclei on a long inward rush to the Sun.
Can we secure our place in the Solar System? Not in any absolute sense because nature can be very unpredictable. But we can make the effort to safeguard our civilization by cataloguing potentially dangerous asteroids. An upcoming space telescope will help.
If you think about space travel and the means of escaping the confines of the Earth then most people, currently, are likely to think about the new Artemis project and the Space Launch System. That’s not the only new development though, Blue Origin have been working on their New Glenn rocket and finally we have got a glimpse of their new offering. The rocket was finally rolled onto the launch pad at Cape Canaveral for testing to commence and we may even see a launch later this year.
Universe Today has investigated the importance of studying impact craters, planetary surfaces, exoplanets, and astrobiology, and what these disciplines can teach both researchers and the public about finding life beyond Earth. Here, we will discuss the fascinating field of solar physics (also called heliophysics), including why scientists study it, the benefits and challenges of studying it, what it can teach us about finding life beyond Earth, and how upcoming students can pursue studying solar physics. So, why is it so important to study solar physics?
Astronomers have been on the hunt for a new kind of exoplanet in recent years – one especially suited for habitability. They’re called hycean worlds, and they’re characterized by vast liquid water oceans and thick hydrogen-rich atmospheres. The name was coined in 2021 by Cambridge astronomer Nikku Madhusudhan, whose team got a close-up look at one possible hycean world, K2-18b, using the James Webb Space Telescope in 2023. In a newly accepted paper this January, Madhusudhan and coauthor Frances Rigby examined what the internal structure of hycean planets might look like, and what that means for the possibility of finding life within.
Intuitive Machines‘ Odysseus lander made space history today — becoming the first commercial spacecraft to survive a descent to the moon, and the first U.S.-built spacecraft to do so since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. But it wasn’t a trouble-free landing.
Ground controllers had a hard time establishing contact with the robotic lander just after the scheduled touchdown time of 6:23 p.m. ET (2323 UTC). Several minutes passed, and then Intuitive Machines mission director Tim Crain reported that there was a faint signal coming from Odysseus’ high-gain antenna.