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Odysseus Sends Moon Landing Photos Home With Time Running Out

Odysseus Sends Moon Landing Photos Home With Time Running Out

The privately built American spacecraft’s ability to send home images and other data has been limited by its sideways landing. On another part of the moon, a Japanese spacecraft woke up.

Odysseus, the American robotic spacecraft that landed on the moon last week, is likely to die in the next day or so.

Communications with the toppled lander remain limited and will end when sunlight is no longer shining on the solar panels, Intuitive Machines, the Houston-based company that built and operates Odysseus, said on Monday morning.

The company also released images that the spacecraft took as it descended, but none yet from the surface.

Odysseus is the first American spacecraft to land on the moon since Apollo 17 in 1972, and the first private one ever to successfully set down there in one piece. However, during the landing on Thursday evening, the lander, about 14 feet tall, appears to have been traveling faster than planned and ended up tipped over on its side.

As a result, its antennas are not pointed back at Earth, greatly slowing the rate that data can be sent back. While some of the solar panels of Odysseus were initially bathed in sunlight, they will soon be in shadow as the sun moves across the sky. That will starve the spacecraft of energy, and its batteries will drain.

Odysseus is not designed to survive the two weeks of lunar night that will follow, with temperatures dropping below minus-200 degrees Fahrenheit.

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