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The company Intuitive Machines, which developed the probe, wants to try to turn it back on after lunar night, in two or three weeks.

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American lunar probe soon to be mothballed

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The position of the Odysseus probe is indicated by the arrow added to the image by researchers on a photo of the Moon.

Agence France-Presse

The American probe Odysseus, on the Moon for almost a week, will be put to sleep shortly, at the end of its main mission described Wednesday as a “success” by NASA and the American company l' having developed, Intuitive Machines, despite the difficulties encountered.

Odysseus became last Thursday the first private probe to land on the Moon, and the first spacecraft American to do so since the end of the Apollo program in 1972. However, it found itself tilted on the lunar surface after an eventful descent.

Despite this, we received data from all cargoes, private and from NASA, Steve Altemus, CEO and co-founder of Intuitive Machines, emphasized at a press conference. The mission we have carried out has been a great success so far.

The boss even announced a surprise: Intuitive Machines plans to try to restart Odysseus in two or three weeks, after the passage of the lunar night.

However, it is very uncertain whether the device, particularly its batteries, will survive the freezing cold that is about to set in.

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For the moment, the lander will be mothballed, said Steve Altemus.

The lunar lander is powered by its solar panels, and therefore had to be turned off during the lunar night from the start. Contact must have been lost during the few hours after the press conference.

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Odysseus' ground operations are expected to last about seven days at most, before night sets in over the lunar south pole.

An impressive photo released Wednesday illustrates the challenges encountered: it shows at least one of the probe's six legs broken at the time of landing, while the still-fired engine kicks up lunar dust. /p>

A failure in the lunar navigation system had complicated its final descent.

It approached the ground too quickly, with a residual horizontal movement which was not planned, and therefore skidded on the surface, explained the CEO. Once placed, it tilted.

Because Odysseus is located on a slight slope, and possibly leaning on one of its tanks on one side, it is tilted at about 30 degrees, according to Intuitive Machines.

Another image, on which we can see a tip of the probe and the black of a nearby crater, confirmed this position.

A small camera-equipped craft called EagleCam, developed by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, was ejected from the lander to try to take a photo of the lander. exterior, but was unable to provide the long-awaited photo.

This mission, although private, was largely set up thanks to funding of NASA, which commissioned Intuitive Machines to transport six scientific instruments to the Moon – a contract worth US$118 million.

Odysseus is a success from NASA's point of view.

A quote from Bill Nelson, administrator of the US space agency

Scientists have already started examining radio waves recorded from Earth, using one of the instruments.

Another was unable to analyze the amount of dust projected during the descent as planned, but was still able to be lit once on the ground.

Odysseus is the probe that has landed furthest south on the Moon.

NASA wants to explore this region before ;send its astronauts there as part of its Artemis missions.

The lunar south pole is of particular interest to the great powers, because it could contain large quantities of water in the form of ice. This water could potentially be harnessed to make fuel for spacecraft, or support the needs of astronauts on site.

Intuitive Machines has two more lunar missions planned this year. All are part of NASA's new CLPS program, which has commissioned several companies to transport its scientific equipment, so that it can make the trip more often and for less than developing vehicles to do so itself. .

The American space agency also intends to stimulate the development of a lunar economy, capable of supporting a sustainable human presence on the Moon – one of the goals of the Artemis program.

More than 50 years after Apollo, people asked, why landing on the Moon is so hard, reported Steve Altemus. He noted several differences between past and current missions: limited funding, a tight schedule, and a moon landing much further from the equator.

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