The American mission to the moon will have to end earlier than planned

Landing of an American company on the moon / Photo: ABACA / Abaca Press / Profimedia

US private space company Intuitive Machines expects to lose contact with the Odyssey spacecraft, cutting the mission short five days after its side landing on the moon.

It remains to be seen how much scientific data could be lost as a result of the shortened mission of Odyssey, which, according to previous estimates by the company and its biggest customer, NASA, would have operated on the moon for seven to 10 days under normal conditions.

The company's prediction of an early end to the mission came after new details emerged about testing failures and human error that led to the spacecraft's failed landing last Thursday.

An Intuitive Machines official said the loss of the range finders stems from the company's decision to forego pre-launch testing of the laser system to save time and money during Odyssey's pre-flight checks at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“There were certainly things we could have done to test him and actually fire him. They would be very time-consuming and very expensive," Mike Hansen, the company's head of navigation systems, told Reuters in an interview on Saturday. "So that was a risk as a company that we recognized and we took that risk."

On Friday, Intuitive Machines revealed that the laser range finders – designed to feed altitude and speed readings to Odyssey's autonomous navigation system – were inoperative because the company's engineers neglected to unlock the laser's safety switch before the February 15 launch. The safety lock can only be disabled by hand.

A malfunction in the range finder, discovered just hours before the final descent, forced flight controllers to improvise an experimental operation to avoid what could have been a disastrous landing.

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