Posts with «science» label

Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lander tipped over at touchdown, but it’s still kicking

It turns out Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus spacecraft didn’t land upright after all. In a press conference with NASA Friday evening, the company revealed the lander is laying on its side after coming in a little faster than expected, likely catching its foot on the surface at the moment of landing. Fortunately, Odysseus is positioned in such a way that its solar panels are still getting enough light from the sun to keep it charged, and the team has been able to communicate with it. Pictures from the surface should be coming soon.

While the initial assessment was that Odysseus had landed properly, further analysis indicated otherwise. Intuitive Machines CEO and co-founder Steve Altemus said “stale telemetry” was to blame for the earlier reading. All payloads except the one static art installation, though — Jeff Koons’ Moon Phases sculptures — are on the upturned side. The lander and its NASA science payloads have been collecting data from the journey, descent and landing, which the team will use to try and get a better understanding of what happened. But, all things considered, it seems to be doing well.

Intuitive Machines
Intuitive Machines

The team plans to eject the EagleCam, developed by students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, soon so it can take a picture of the lander and its surroundings perhaps as soon as this weekend. It was supposed to be ejected during descent to capture the moment of landing, but issues on touchdown day prevented it from being released. 

Once Odysseus was in lunar orbit and hours away from its landing attempt, the team discovered its laser range finders, which are key to its precision navigation, were not working — due entirely to human error. According to Altemus, someone forgot to flip a safety switch that would allow them to turn on, so they couldn’t. That realization was “like a punch in the stomach,” Altemus said, and they thought they could lose the mission. 

The team was thankfully able to make a last-second adjustment cooked up on the fly by Intuitive Machines CTO and co-founder Tim Crain, who suggested they use one of the on-board NASA payloads instead to guide the descent, the Navigation Doppler LIDAR (NDL). In the end, Odysseus made it there alright. Its mission is expected to last a little over a week, until lunar night falls.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The Odysseus spacecraft has become the first US spacecraft to land on the moon in 50 years

The Odysseus spacecraft made by Houston-based Intuitive Machines has successfully landed on the surface of the moon. It marks the first time a spacecraft from a private company has landed on the lunar surface, and it’s the first US-made craft to reach the moon since the Apollo missions.

Odysseus was carrying NASA instruments, which the space agency said would be used to help prepare for future crewed missions to the moon under the Artemis program. NASA confirmed the landing happened at 6:23 PM ET on February 22. The lander launched from Earth on February 15, with the help of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Your order was delivered… to the Moon! 📦@Int_Machines' uncrewed lunar lander landed at 6:23pm ET (2323 UTC), bringing NASA science to the Moon's surface. These instruments will prepare us for future human exploration of the Moon under #Artemis.

— NASA (@NASA) February 22, 2024

According to The New York Times, there were some “technical issues with the flight” that delayed the landing for a couple of hours. Intuitive Machines CTO Tim Crain told the paper that “Odysseus is definitely on the moon and operating but it remains to be seen whether the mission can achieve its objectives.” Odysseus has a limited window of about a week to send data back down to Earth before darkness sets in and makes the solar-powered craft inoperable.

Intuitive Machines wasn’t the first private company to attempt a landing. Astrobotic made an attempt last month with its Peregrine lander, but was unsuccessful. Intuitive Machines is planning to launch two other lunar landers this year.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Scientists develop 'nanosphere' paint that could reduce planes' carbon dioxide emissions

Paint might not seem like the heaviest component to consider when building a large device like an airplane, but its mass can add up. Now, a new and lightweight substance could provide a welcome substitute: Two material scientists from Kobe University, Fujii Minoru and Sugimoto Hiroshi, have discovered nanospheres that are near-invisible silicone crystals. The particles can reflect light thanks to very large and efficient scattering, research published in the journal of ACS Applied Nano Matter details. The result could mean covering a surface in vibrant color while only adding 10 percent of the weight that paint would bring, Fast Company reports.

This reduction could have a tremendous impact on factors such as cost and carbon dioxide produced. Simply put, a plane must use more fuel as its weight goes up, thus directly increasing the amount of money airlines spend (and then charge customers), along with the quantity of fuel burned as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Minoru and Hiroshi's discovery focuses on structural rather than pigment color to exhibit and maintain hues. The former absorbs wavelengths while reflecting the ones the human eye picks up. Structural colors, on the other hand, are "intense and bright colors result from the interaction of light with periodic micro- and nanostructures that cause color by interference, coherent scattering, or diffraction," according to the Encyclopedia of Nanotechnology.

The team's work follows previous research in which they were able to build nanocrystals to a specific size. Then came the creation of colloquial suspension, which keeps the crystalline silicon nanoparticles mixed with supporting liquid rather than separating. At present, the color of the nanosphere-based ink varies as the team changes the nanocrystals' sizes. Larger particles create warm hues like red, while smaller particles display cooler tones like blue. These shades should remain identical no matter the angle at which a person sees them.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The Morning After: Want to live in NASA’s Mars simulation for a year?

NASA wants volunteers for its second year-long simulated Mars mission, the Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA 2). For the mission’s duration, starting spring 2025, the four selected crew members will live in a 1,700-square-foot 3D-printed habitat in Houston. It’s paid, but we don’t know how much. At least living costs will be nil.

The Mars Dune Alpha habitat at NASA’s Johnson Space Center simulates life for future explorers on the red planet, where the environment is harsh and resources limited.

Applicants must be US citizens aged 30 to 55, speak English proficiently and have a master’s degree in a STEM field, plus at least two years of professional experience, a minimum of one thousand hours piloting an aircraft. Or two years of work toward a STEM doctoral program.

I barely qualify for two of those requirements — good luck to the rest of you.

— Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missed

The best VR headsets

Epic plans to launch its own iOS storefront in the EU this year

Microsoft should exit the console business

Engadget is looking for experienced writers

​​You can get these reports delivered daily direct to your inbox. Subscribe right here!

The EU is reportedly hitting Apple with a $539 million fine in antitrust probe

It’s been investigating Apple’s App Store rules since a 2019 complaint from Spotify.

Apple may be facing a fine of roughly $539 million (€500 million) from the EU and a ban on its alleged anti-competitive App Store practices for music streaming services, according to The Financial Times. The publication cites five unnamed sources and says the European Commission will announce its ruling early next month.

The investigation was prompted by a 2019 antitrust complaint filed by Spotify and focuses on App Store rules that, at the time, prevented developers from directing customers to alternative subscriptions outside the app, which could be notably cheaper as they didn’t have to include Apple’s 30 percent fee.

Continue reading.

Reddit reportedly signed a multi-million content licensing deal with an AI company

The company will use Reddit content to train its AI models.

Anadolu via Getty Images

Your dank memes, confessional posts and excessively strong feelings on Baldur’s Gate 3 couplings will soon train an artificial intelligence company’s models, according to Bloomberg. The website reportedly signed a deal “worth about $60 million on an annual basis” earlier this year.

When Reddit started charging companies for API access in April 2023, it said pricing would split in tiers so even smaller clientele could afford to pay. Companies need that API access to train their chatbots on posts and comments. This is likely the top tier of all that.

Continue reading.

Intuitive Machines’ moon lander sent home its first images

The landing attempt is scheduled for February 22.

Intuitive Machines

Intuitive Machines’ own attempt at the first-ever commercial Moon landing is off to a good start. After launching without a hitch on Thursday, it snapped a few incredible images of Earth. The team posted a series of updates on X at the end of the week, confirming the lander has passed some key milestones, including engine firing, ahead of its touchdown.

Continue reading.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

A satellite designed to inspect space junk just made it to orbit

Astroscale’s ADRAS-J spacecraft, a demonstration satellite that could inform future space junk cleanup efforts, is now in orbit after a successful launch from New Zealand on Sunday. The satellite was sent to space atop an Electron rocket from Rocket Lab. Its mission, which was selected by Japan’s space agency (JAXA) for Phase I of the Commercial Removal of Debris Demonstration program, will see ADRAS-J rendezvous with an old Japanese rocket upper stage that’s been in orbit since 2009.

There it goes! 🛰️👋

ADRAS-J is now in orbit, ready to start its mission of rendezvousing with an aging piece of space debris and observing it closely to determine whether it can be deorbited in future.

Proud to be part of this innovative @astroscale_HQ mission studying ways to…

— Rocket Lab (@RocketLab) February 18, 2024

The accumulation of waste in Earth’s orbit from decades of spaceflight is an issue of growing concern, and space agencies around the world are increasingly working to address it, in many cases tapping private companies to develop potential solutions. One of the most effective ways to deal with space junk could be to deorbit it, or move it to a lower altitude so it can burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. ADRAS-J will be the first to target a piece of existing large debris and attempt to safely approach and characterize it, relying on ground-based data to hone in on its position.

Over the next few months, it’ll make its way to the target and eventually try to get close enough to take images and assess its condition to determine if it can be removed. “ADRAS-J is officially on duty and ready to rendezvous with some space debris!” the company tweeted. “Let the new era of space sustainability begin!”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Intuitive Machines’ moon lander sent home its first images and they’re breathtaking

Intuitive Machines’ lunar lander is well on its way to the moon after launching without a hitch on Thursday, but it managed to snap a few incredible images of Earth while it was still close to home. The company shared the first batch of images from the IM-1 mission on X today after confirming in an earlier post that the spacecraft is “in excellent health.” Along with a view of Earth and some partial selfies of the Nova-C lander, nicknamed Odysseus, you can even see the SpaceX Falcon 9 second stage falling away in the distance after separation.

Intuitive Machines successfully transmitted its first IM-1 mission images to Earth on February 16, 2024. The images were captured shortly after separation from @SpaceX's second stage on Intuitive Machines’ first journey to the Moon under @NASA's CLPS initiative.

— Intuitive Machines (@Int_Machines) February 17, 2024

Odysseus is on track to make its moon landing attempt on February 22, and so far appears to be performing well. The team posted a series of updates on X at the end of the week confirming the lander has passed some key milestones ahead of its touchdown, including engine firing. This marked “the first-ever in-space ignition of a liquid methane and liquid oxygen engine,” according to Intuitive Machines.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

NASA is looking for volunteers to live in its Mars simulation for a year

If extreme challenges are your cup of tea, NASA has the perfect opportunity for you. The space agency put out a call on Friday for volunteers to participate in its second yearlong simulated Mars mission, the Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog (CHAPEA 2). For the duration of the mission, which will start in spring 2025, the four selected crew members will be housed in a 1,700-square-foot 3D-printed habitat in Houston. NASA is accepting applications on the CHAPEA website from now through April 2. It’s a paid gig, but NASA hasn’t publicly said how much participants will be compensated.

The Mars Dune Alpha habitat at NASA’s Johnson Space Center is designed to simulate what life might be like for future explorers on the red planet, where the environment is harsh and resources will be limited. There’s a crew currently living and working there as part of the first CHAPEA mission, which is now more than halfway through its 378-day assignment. During their stay, volunteers will perform habitat maintenance and grow crops, among other tasks. The habitat also has a 1,200-square-foot sandbox attached to it for simulated spacewalks.

To be considered, applicants must be a US citizen aged 30-55, speak English proficiently and have a master’s degree in a STEM field, plus at least two years of professional experience, a minimum of one thousand hours piloting an aircraft or two years of work toward a STEM doctoral program. Certain types of professional experience may allow applicants without a master’s to qualify too. CHAPEA 2 is the second of three mission NASA has planned for the program, the first of which began on June 25, 2023. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Intuitive Machines' lunar lander begins its multi-day journey to the moon

Intuitive Machines' Odysseus has started making its way to the moon and could make history as the first privately built lander to touch down on the lunar surface. The lander was ferried to space by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket using a booster that already had 17 flights under its belt before this one and could even fly again in the future, seeing as it had safely returned to Earth on the company's Landing Zone 1. Both SpaceX and Intuitive Machines have confirmed that Odysseus has successfully been deployed and has started its multi-day journey to the moon. 

Deployment of @Int_Machines IM-1 confirmed

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 15, 2024

To be exact, Intuitive Machines has set its sights on the Malapert A crater near the moon's south pole as Odysseus' landing site. The spacecraft can operate for around 14 Earth days when powered by sunlight, but the company is hoping for touchdown to take place by February 22. Odysseus, the first of the Nova-C type landers Intuitive Machines is planning to launch this year, is carrying five NASA payloads in addition to commercial cargo. 

The mission's objectives include demonstrating precision landing and testing certain communication and navigation node capabilities. It will also observe how rocket plumes and space weather interact with the lunar surface. IM-1 was one of the missions NASA had chosen to take its scientific instruments to the moon over the next few years as part of its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. The first of the CLPS missions to take off was Astrobotic's Peregrine Mission 1, which unfortunately experienced an anomaly that prevented the lander from pointing its solar panels at the sun and caused it to leak propellant. Peregrine never made it to the moon and ended its journey by burning up in the Earth's atmosphere upon reentry. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The ice caps are melting. Is geoengineering the solution?

Since 1979, Arctic ice has shrunk by 1.35 million square miles, a new JPL study found ice loss in Greenland is far worse than previously thought and Antarctic ice is now at the lowest level since records began. The more they melt, the faster the rate of decline for the ice that remains until we’re faced with a series of catastrophes. The most immediate of which is sea level rise which threatens to eradicate whole nations that are situated on low-lying islands. How do we stop such a problem? While we remedy the longer-term issues around fossil fuel consumption, we might have to buy ourselves more time with geoengineering.

The severity of this situation can’t be stressed enough. Professor John Moore of the Arctic Center, University of Lapland, says that we’re long past the point where emissions reductions alone will be effective. “We are faced with this situation where there’s no pathway to 1.5 [degrees] available through mitigation,” he said. “Things like the ice sheets [melting] and other tipping points will happen regardless,” adding that the Earth’s present situation is akin to a patient bleeding out on the operating table, “we are in this situation where we cannot mitigate ourselves out of the shit.”

Moore is one of the figures behind Frozen Arctic, a report produced by the universities of the Arctic and Lapland alongside UN-backed thinktank GRID-Arendal. It’s a rundown of sixty geoengineering projects that could slow down or reverse polar melting. A team of researchers opted to examine every idea, from those already in place to the ones at the fringes of science. “We wanted to be thorough,” said Moore, “because even the craziest idea might have a nugget of gold in there.” Each approach has been given a brief analysis, examining if it’s feasible on a scientific or practical basis, if it would be potentially helpful and how much it would cost. The report even went so far as to look at pykrete, a wacky World War Two initiative to create artificial glaciers for strategic use by mixing sawdust or paper products into ice.

If you’re curious and don’t have a day or two to read the report yourself, you can boil down the approaches to a handful of categories. The first is Solar Radiation Management, i.e. making the polar regions more reflective to bounce away more of the sun’s heat. Second, there’s artificial ice generation to compensate for what has already been lost. Third, enormous engineering work to buttress, isolate and protect the remaining ice — like massive undersea walls that act as a barrier against the seas as they get warmer. Finally, there are measures that nibble at the edges of the problem in terms of effect, but have more viable long-term success, like preventing flora and fauna (and the warmth they radiate) from encroaching on regions meant to remain frozen.

If you’re a climate scientist, the likely most obvious approach is the first, because we’ve seen the positive effects of it before. Albedo is the climate science term to describe how white ice acts as an enormous reflector, bouncing away a lot of the sun’s heat. Ice ages dramatically increase albedo, but there are more recent examples in living memory: In 1991 Mount Pinatubo, a volcano in the Philippines, erupted, spewing an enormous amount of volcanic ash into the atmosphere. (The event also caused a large amount of damage, displaced 200,000 people and claimed the lives of at least 722.) According to NOAA, the ash dumped into the atmosphere helped reflect a lot of solar heat away from the Earth, causing a temporary global cooling effect of roughly 1.5 degrees celsius. The devastation of Pinatubo isn’t desirable, nor was the ozone depletion that it caused, but that cooling effect could be vital to slowing global warming and polar melting.

It’s possible to do this artificially by seeding the clouds with chemicals deposited by an airplane or with ground-based smoke generators, which can also be used to promote rain clouds. This is a tactic already used in China to help make rain for agriculture and to alleviate drought-like conditions. In this context, the clouds would act as a barrier between the sun and the ice caps, bouncing more of that solar radiation away from the Earth’s surface. Unfortunately, there’s a problem with this approach, which is that it’s incredibly expensive and incredibly fussy. The report says it’s only viable when the right clouds are overhead, and the work would require enormous infrastructure to be built nearby. Not to mention that while we have some small shreds of evidence to suggest it might be useful, there’s nothing proven as yet.

And then there are the second order effects when these approaches then spill over into the rest of the global ecosystem. “If you do sunlight reflection methods and you put anything up in the atmosphere, it doesn’t stay where you put it.” That’s the big issue identified by Dr. Phil Williamson, honorary associate professor at the University of East Anglia and a former contributor to the UN’s keystone Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. His concern is that regional, targeted climate solutions “don’t solve the problem for the whole world,” and that if you’re not tackling climate change on a global scale, then you’re “just accentuating the difference.” With a cold arctic, but rising temperatures elsewhere, you’re climbing aboard a “climate rollercoaster.”

Second in the ranking of hail-mary climate approaches is to build a freezer to both cool down the existing ice and make more. Sadly, many ideas in this area forget that ice sheets are not just big blocks of immovable ice and are, in fact, liable to move. Take the idea of drilling down two miles or so into the ice sheet and pumping out the warm water to cool it down: Thanks to the constantly shifting ice and water, a new site would need to be drilled fairly regularly.

There’s another problem: The report says one project to bore a hole down 2.5km (1.5 miles) burned 450,000 liters of fuel. Not to mention how much energy it would consume to run the heat exchangers or freezers to create fresh ice on such a scale. That's a considerable amount of greenhouse gas pollution for a project meant to undo that exact type of damage. Dumping a layer of artificially-made snow on a mountain may work fine for a ski resort when the powder’s a little thin, but not the whole planet.

As hard as the scientific and engineering battles will be, there’s also the political one that will need addressing. “A lot of people get quasi-religiously upset about putting stuff into the stratosphere,” said Professor John Moore, “you’d think they’d get similarly upset about greenhouse gasses.” One strategy under consideration is to inject sulfur into the atmosphere to replicate the cooling effects observed after major volcanic eruptions. The sulfur would form SO2, creating thick layers of dense cloud to block more heat from reaching the ice. But if you, like me, have a high school-level knowledge of science, that’s a scary prospect given that sulfur dioxide would resolve to sulfuric acid. Given the microscopic quantities involved, there would be little-to-no impact on the natural world. But the image of acid rain pouring down from the clouds means it’d be a hard sell to an uninformed population.

But if there is a reason for concern, it’s that any unintended consequences could pose a problem in the global political space. “It’s almost like declaring war on the rest of the world if [a nation] goes it alone,” says Phil Williamson, “because any damage or alteration to the global climate system, the country that did it is responsible for all future climatic disasters because the weather isn’t the same.”

Of course, Moore knows that the Frozen Arctic report’s conclusions aren’t too optimistic about a quick fix. He feels its conclusions should serve as a wake-up call for the planet. “Nobody is going to scale up something for the entire arctic ocean overnight,” he said, but that this is the time to “find ideas that might be valuable [...] and then put resources into finding out if [those ideas] really are useful.” He added that the short turnaround time before a total climate disaster isn’t much of an issue, saying “engineers can pretty much do anything you ask them to if you put enough resources into it.” Because the alternative is to do nothing, and “every day that we choose to do nothing, we accept more of the damages that are coming.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Intuitive Machines is taking its shot at nailing the first commercial moon landing

Houston-based space company Intuitive Machines is gearing up for an actual moonshot at the end of this month, when it’ll try to land a spacecraft named Odysseus on the lunar surface — ideally without it breaking in the process. The mission follows Astrobotic’s unsuccessful attempt in January; that company’s lander, Peregrine, never made it to the moon due to a propellant leak that cut its journey short. Peregrine’s failure means Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 mission could be the first ever commercial moon landing if it makes it there intact.

Intuitive Machines is hoping to make its landing attempt on February 22, targeting the Malapert A crater near the moon’s south pole for touchdown. This arrival date is dependent on Odysseus, one of the company’s Nova-C class landers, leaving Earth atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sometime between February 14 and February 16. The launch window opens at 12:57AM ET on Wednesday.

Odysseus is the first of three Nova-C landers Intuitive Machines plans to send to the moon this year, all of which will have commercial payloads on board and NASA instruments as contracted under the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. At 14 feet tall (4.3 meters), the lander is roughly the size of a giraffe and can carry about 280 pounds (130kg) of cargo. Its mission, if it nails a soft landing, will be a short but potentially valuable one for informing future excursions to the region, including NASA’s upcoming crewed Artemis missions. Orbiting probes have found evidence of water ice at the lunar south pole, which could be used for astronaut subsistence and even fuel, making it an area of high interest for human exploration.


The solar-powered craft and any functional equipment it’s carrying are only expected to be in working condition for about a week before the onset of lunar night, a 14-day period of frigid darkness that the company says will leave the lander inoperable. But while everything’s up and running, the various instruments will gather data at the surface. NASA awarded Intuitive Machines a $77 million contract for the delivery of its payloads back in 2019, and there are six NASA instruments now hitching a ride on Odysseus.

One, the Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA), will “function as a permanent location mark” from its position on the moon after landing to help incoming spacecraft determine their distance from the surface, according to NASA. The lander is also carrying the Navigation Doppler LIDAR for Precise Velocity and Range Sensing (NDL), a sensor that measures velocity and altitude to better guide the descent, and the Lunar Node 1 Navigation Demonstrator (LN-1) to support communication and autonomous navigation in future missions.

NASA is also sending instruments to study surface plumes — everything that gets kicked up when the lander touches down — along with radio waves and the effects of space weather. That includes the Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume-Surface Studies (SCALPSS), which will capture images of these dust plumes, and the Radio wave Observation at the Lunar Surface of the photoElectron Sheath (ROLSES) instrument.

The rest of the payloads on board Odysseus are commercial. Columbia Sportswear worked with Intuitive Machines to incorporate the brand’s Apollo-inspired Omni-Heat Infinity thermal reflective material, which is being used for this mission to help protect the cryogenic propulsion tank, according to Intuitive Machines. Students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University developed a camera system dubbed the EagleCam that will attempt to separate from the lander before it touches down and snap a picture of the moment from a third-person point of view. EagleCam is also equipped with an experimental dust-removal system.

Intuitive Machines

There are even some Jeff Koons sculptures heading to the moon, which will have physical and NFT counterparts back on Earth. In Koons’ Moon Phase piece, 125 small stainless steel sculptures of the moon at different phases are encased in a clear cube made by 4Space, with the names of important historical figures from around the world listed below each sphere. The International Lunar Observatory Association, based in Hawaii, and Canadensys Aerospace are sending a 1.3-pound dual-camera system called ILO-X, with which they’ll attempt to capture wide and narrow field images of the Milky Way from the moon.

Odysseus is also carrying small discs called “Lunagrams” from Galactic Legacy Labs that contain messages from Earth, including text, images, audio and archives from major databases such as the Arch Mission Foundation and the English-language version of Wikipedia. Similar archival materials were sent to space with Peregrine last month. The information technology company Lonestar plans to demonstrate its Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) by storing data on the lander and transmitting documents ( including the US Declaration of Independence) between Earth and the moon. It’ll follow this up with a prototype mini data center on Intuitive Machines’ next launch.

Now, the pressure is on for the Odysseus Nova-C lander to actually get to the lunar surface safely. This year started off rocky for moon missions, with the failure of Astrobotic’s Peregrine and a descent hiccup that caused JAXA’s SLIM spacecraft to faceplant into the lunar surface (though the latter was miraculously able to resume functions to some degree after a few days). Intuitive Machines will have other chances to get it right if it doesn’t this time — it has multiple missions already booked up — but only one private lander can be “first.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at