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On Feb. 22, 2024, Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lunar lander captures a wide field of view image of Schomberger crater on the Moon approximately 125 miles (200 km) uprange from the intended landing site, at approximately about 6 miles (10 km) altitude. Credit: Intuitive Machines For the first time in more than 50 years, new NASA science instruments and technology demonstrations are operating on the Moon following the first successful delivery of the agency’s CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative.
Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander, called Odysseus, completed a seven-day journey to lunar orbit and executed procedures to softly land near Malapert A in the South Pole region of the Moon at 5:24 p.m. CST on Feb. 22. The lander is healthy, collecting solar power, and transmitting data back to the company’s mission control in Houston. The mission marks the first commercial uncrewed landing on the Moon.
Carrying six NASA science research and technology demonstrations, among other customer payloads, all NASA science instruments completed transit checkouts en route to the Moon. A NASA precision landing technology demonstration also provided critical last-minute assistance to ensure a soft landing. As part of NASA’s Artemis campaign, the lunar delivery is in the region where NASA will send astronauts to search for water and other lunar resources later this decade.
“For the first time in more than half a century, America returned to the Moon. Congratulations to Intuitive Machines for placing the lunar lander Odysseus carrying NASA scientific instruments to a place no person or machine has gone before, the lunar South Pole,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “This feat from Intuitive Machines, SpaceX, and NASA demonstrates the promise of American leadership in space and the power of commercial partnerships under NASA’s CLPS initiative. Further, this success opens the door for new voyages under Artemis to send astronauts to the Moon, then onward to Mars.”
During the journey to the Moon, NASA instruments measured the quantity of cryogenic engine fuel as it has been used, and while descending toward the lunar surface, teams collected data on plume-surface interactions and tested precision landing technologies.
Odysseus’ surface operations are underway and expected to take place through Thursday, Feb. 29.
New lunar science, technology
NASA’s Navigation Doppler Lidar for Precise Velocity and Range Sensing (NDL) guidance system for descent and landing ultimately played a key role in aiding the successful landing. A few hours ahead of landing, Intuitive Machines encountered a sensor issue with their navigation system and leaned on NASA’s guidance system for an assist to precisely land. NASA’s instrument operates on the same principles of radar and uses pulses from a laser emitted through three optical telescopes. It measures speed, direction, and altitude with high precision during descent and touchdown.
“We are thrilled to have NASA on the Moon again, and proud of the agency’s contribution to the successful landing with our NDL technology. Congratulations for completing this first lunar delivery for NASA, paving the way for a bright future for our CLPS initiative,” said Nicky Fox. “Some of the NASA science instruments on this mission will bring us insight on lunar plume interactions and conduct radio astronomy. The valiant efforts and innovation demonstrated by Intuitive Machines is exemplary and we are excited for the upcoming lunar deliveries that will follow this first mission.”
Now that they are on the lunar surface, NASA instruments will focus on investigating lunar surface interactions and radio astronomy. The Odysseus lander also carries a retroreflector array that will contribute to a network of location markers on the Moon for communication and navigation for future autonomous navigation technologies.
Additional NASA hardware aboard the lander includes:
Lunar Node 1 Navigation Demonstrator: A small, CubeSat-sized experiment that will demonstrate autonomous navigation that could be used by future landers, surface infrastructure, and astronauts, digitally confirming their positions on the Moon relative to other spacecraft, ground stations, or rovers on the move. Laser Retroreflector Array: A collection of eight retroreflectors that enable precision laser ranging, which is a measurement of the distance between the orbiting or landing spacecraft to the reflector on the lander. The array is a passive optical instrument and will function as a permanent location marker on the Moon for decades to come. Radio Frequency Mass Gauge: A technology demonstration that measures the amount of propellant in spacecraft tanks in a low-gravity space environment. Using sensor technology, the gauge will measure the amount of cryogenic propellant in Nova-C’s fuel and oxidizer tanks, providing data that could help predict fuel usage on future missions. Radio-wave Observations at the Lunar Surface of the Photoelectron Sheath: The instrument will observe the Moon’s surface environment in radio frequencies, to determine how natural and human-generated activity near the surface interacts with and could interfere with science conducted there. Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume-Surface Studies: A suite of four tiny cameras to capture imagery showing how the Moon’s surface changes from interactions with the spacecraft’s engine plume during and after descent. NASA is committed to supporting its U.S. commercial vendors as they navigate the challenges of sending science and technology to the surface of the Moon.
“In daring to confront one of humanity’s greatest challenges, Intuitive Machines created an entire lunar program that has ventured farther than any American mission to land on the Moon in over 50 years,” said Altemus. “This humbling moment reminds us that pursuing the extraordinary requires both boldness and resilience.”
For more information about CLPS, visit:
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Last Updated Feb 23, 2024 EditorJennifer M. DoorenLocationNASA Headquarters Related Terms
Missions Artemis Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) View the full article
NASA News Briefing on Intuitive Machines' First Lunar Landing
A remarkable slice of ancient history has been unearthed beneath the depths of the Baltic Sea, marking a significant milestone in archaeological exploration. This groundbreaking discovery was serendipitously made in Germany’s Bay of Mecklenburg, during a routine student expedition.
Located approximately 10 kilometers (six miles) offshore, the team of researchers stumbled upon an intriguing anomaly using their multi-beam sonar system.
What they found was a sprawling, enigmatic wall extending nearly a kilometer along the seabed, nestled at a depth of 21 meters (69 feet). Detailed analysis has revealed that this colossal structure dates back over 10,000 years, potentially making it the oldest known megastructure built by ancient Europeans.
Comprising approximately 1,670 individual stones meticulously arranged to connect some 300 larger boulders, the structure hints at a deliberate construction, suggesting a specific purpose conceived millennia before being submerged beneath the sea.
Led by geophysicist Jacob Geerson from Kiel University, the research team has dubbed the discovery the "Blinker wall." They propose that it was likely built by Stone Age hunter-gatherers near a lake or marsh, serving as one of the earliest documented man-made hunting structures in history and ranking among Europe's largest Stone Age constructions.
Over millennia, Earth's geography has undergone profound transformations due to sea level fluctuations, erosion, and geological shifts, submerging countless ancient settlements beneath the waves and concealing their secrets. However, advancements in technology continue to unveil these submerged relics, offering invaluable insights into our ancestors' way of life.
While the precise function of the Blinker wall remains elusive, experts speculate it might have functioned as a hunting aid, possibly guiding reindeer herds. The construction's strategic layout suggests the intentional creation of bottlenecks to corral animals, with the potential presence of a second adjacent wall hinted at by the researchers.
Detailed examination of the structure's dimensions, composition, and alignment strongly indicates human involvement, ruling out natural formation. The team's analysis posits the Blinker wall's construction over 10,000 years ago, with submersion occurring around 8,500 years ago.
The significance of the Blinker wall extends beyond its age, promising valuable insights into the socioeconomic complexities of ancient hunter-gatherer societies in the region, illuminating their way of life and interaction with the environment.
Baltic Sea Anomaly.
The Baltic Sea is full off ancient mysteries, not only the discovery of the ruins of the 11,000-year-old megastructure but also the discovery in June 2011 by Swedish OceanX diving team of an enigmatic anomaly displaying unconventional characteristics sparking speculation that it could be a submerged UFO. Despite the explanation behind the Blinker wall, the UFO-like anomaly continues to baffle experts, shrouded in mystery to this day.
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5 Min Read Webb Finds Evidence for Neutron Star at Heart of Young Supernova Remnant
The James Webb Space Telescope has observed the best evidence yet for emission from a neutron star. Credits:
NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, C. Fransson (Stockholm University), M. Matsuura (Cardiff University), M. J. Barlow (University College London), P. J. Kavanagh (Maynooth University), J. Larsson (KTH Royal Institute of Technology) NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has found the best evidence yet for emission from a neutron star at the site of a recently observed supernova. The supernova, known as SN 1987A, was a core-collapse supernova, meaning the compacted remains at its core formed either a neutron star or a black hole. Evidence for such a compact object has long been sought, and while indirect evidence for the presence of a neutron star has previously been found, this is the first time that the effects of high-energy emission from the probable young neutron star have been detected.
Supernovae – the explosive final death throes of some massive stars – blast out within hours, and the brightness of the explosion peaks within a few months. The remains of the exploding star will continue to evolve at a rapid rate over the following decades, offering a rare opportunity for astronomers to study a key astronomical process in real time.
The supernova SN 1987A occurred 160,000 light-years from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud. It was first observed on Earth in February 1987, and its brightness peaked in May of that year. It was the first supernova that could be seen with the naked eye since Kepler’s Supernova was observed in 1604.
About two hours prior to the first visible-light observation of SN 1987A, three observatories around the world detected a burst of neutrinos lasting only a few seconds. The two different types of observations were linked to the same supernova event, and provided important evidence to inform the theory of how core-collapse supernovae take place. This theory included the expectation that this type of supernova would form a neutron star or a black hole. Astronomers have searched for evidence for one or the other of these compact objects at the center of the expanding remnant material ever since.
Indirect evidence for the presence of a neutron star at the center of the remnant has been found in the past few years, and observations of much older supernova remnants –such as the Crab Nebula – confirm that neutron stars are found in many supernova remnants. However, no direct evidence of a neutron star in the aftermath of SN 1987A (or any other such recent supernova explosion) had been observed, until now.
Image: Supernova 1987A
The James Webb Space Telescope has observed the best evidence yet for emission from a neutron star at the site of a well-known and recently-observed supernova known as SN 1987A. At left is a NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) image released in 2023. The image at top right shows light from singly ionized argon (Argon II) captured by the Medium Resolution Spectrograph (MRS) mode of MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument). The image at bottom right shows light from multiply ionized argon captured by the NIRSpec (Near-Infrared Spectrograph). Both instruments show a strong signal from the center of the supernova remnant. This indicated to the science team that there is a source of high-energy radiation there, most likely a neutron star. NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, C. Fransson (Stockholm University), M. Matsuura (Cardiff University), M. J. Barlow (University College London), P. J. Kavanagh (Maynooth University), J. Larsson (KTH Royal Institute of Technology) Claes Fransson of Stockholm University, and the lead author on this study, explained: “From theoretical models of SN 1987A, the 10-second burst of neutrinos observed just before the supernova implied that a neutron star or black hole was formed in the explosion. But we have not observed any compelling signature of such a newborn object from any supernova explosion. With this observatory, we have now found direct evidence for emission triggered by the newborn compact object, most likely a neutron star.”
Webb’s Observations of SN 1987A
Webb began science observations in July 2022, and the Webb observations behind this work were taken on July 16, making the SN 1987A remnant one of the first objects observed by Webb. The team used the Medium Resolution Spectrograph (MRS) mode of Webb’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument), which members of the same team helped to develop. The MRS is a type of instrument known as an Integral Field Unit (IFU).
IFUs are able to image an object and take a spectrum of it at the same time. An IFU forms a spectrum at each pixel, allowing observers to see spectroscopic differences across the object. Analysis of the Doppler shift of each spectrum also permits the evaluation of the velocity at each position.
Spectral analysis of the results showed a strong signal due to ionized argon from the center of the ejected material that surrounds the original site of SN 1987A. Subsequent observations using Webb’s NIRSpec (Near-Infrared Spectrograph) IFU at shorter wavelengths found even more heavily ionized chemical elements, particularly five times ionized argon (meaning argon atoms that have lost five of their 18 electrons). Such ions require highly energetic photons to form, and those photons have to come from somewhere.
“To create these ions that we observed in the ejecta, it was clear that there had to be a source of high-energy radiation in the center of the SN 1987A remnant,” Fransson said. “In the paper we discuss different possibilities, finding that only a few scenarios are likely, and all of these involve a newly born neutron star.”
More observations are planned this year, with Webb and ground-based telescopes. The research team hopes ongoing study will provide more clarity about exactly what is happening in the heart of the SN 1987A remnant. These observations will hopefully stimulate the development of more detailed models, ultimately enabling astronomers to better understand not just SN 1987A, but all core-collapse supernovae.
These findings were published in the journal Science.
The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb is solving mysteries in our solar system, looking beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probing the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.
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Download full resolution images for this article from the Space Telescope Science Institute.
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Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
More Webb News – https://science.nasa.gov/mission/webb/latestnews/
More Webb Images – https://science.nasa.gov/mission/webb/multimedia/images/
Webb Mission Page – https://science.nasa.gov/mission/webb/
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By European Space Agency
The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope has found the best evidence yet for emission from a neutron star at the site of a recently observed supernova. The supernova, known as SN 1987A, occurred 160 000 light-years from Earth in the Large Magellanic Cloud. SN 1987A was observed on Earth in 1987, the first supernova that was visible to the naked eye since 1604 — before the advent of telescopes.
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