Another Bumpy Fasten Your Seat Belt Lunar Landing

Robert Zwilling

Well-Known Member
Jun 12, 2018
As usual, there were glitzes on the final approach. NASA contracted a private company to build the equipment and hired SpaceX to launch the Odysseus lander. In this arrangement NASA pays the original agreed upon price and is not responsible for funding extra costs that could popup. NASA had 6 instrument packages and the private company had 6 commercial ventures.

Sculptor Jeff Koons sent along 125 mini moon sculptures, each 1 approximately 1 inch in diameter each one named after a famous person. There will even be a NFT made for the event.
For more about art on the Moon, including smuggled art work.
Columbia Sportswear is testing out the insulation properties of a new product
A collection of Earth historical documents bolted to the side of the lander. Every time I hear about historical documents for some odd reason I always think of Galaxy Quest.
A mechanism for a fuel gauge for tanks in space temperatures containing liquid oxygen and hydrogen. This will help monitor leakage, probably for storage of supplies for future missions using stockpiled goods. A bustling trade between lunar based companies trading scarce goods on the surface of the Moon could become a reality.
A camera that gets ejected during the final 100 feet to record the event or to provide information about what happened if things don't go according to plan.

According to plan, here on Earth and on the Moon, has been taking a beating lately. The Odysseus' laser rangefinders, which allow it to determine its altitude and horizontal velocity, for use in landing the lander weren't working properly. Fortunately NASA had designed a black box type instrument to record everything about the landing. Their NDL, ("Navigation Doppler Lidar for Precise Velocity and Range Sensing") was designed to get real time data using LIDAR (light detection and ranging) technology. When the laser rangefinders didn't work, the lander was able to access the NDL data and use that information to land.

What's becoming apparent is that until there is a lunar GPS system and the lander software can anticipate problems and solve them with real time corrections, just having one system to land with a 2.5 second signal delay plus reaction/decision time is taking a big chance. There should be alternative methods of handling the landing, such as was used today. Does this also mean that autonomous vehicles here on Earth need a separate backup system that can be deployed immediately when the vehicle operation gets out of control?

After landing the transmitted signal was very weak and took 15 minutes to be locked onto. Its possible that Odysseus had a harder than expected landing and might have some problems. Some data is being received. More details to come later.

The US will be sending another lander to the Moon which will hopefully be able to drill a 3 foot deep to explore the Moon's geology. Hopefully they will be using a rock drill this time.

The 14 foot tall Odysseus landed 186 miles south of the lunar south pole. Not exactly a very hospitable location but closest to the lunar pole yet. Beginning to look like some kind of ball game. There could be ice near the landing site.

The Chinese will sending up another lunar lander soon, to the same region, to get more lunar samples to be analyzed back on Earth and probably looking for water as well.

It is going to get busy on the Moon real fast. It is asteroid mining close to home, driven by water and mineral discoveries, plain old curiosity, exploration by mapmakers and thrill seekers, commerce, scientific research, advertising stunts, military adventures, and under the table real estate deals. Perhaps this will this generate a new series of space stories normally reserved for galaxies far, far away.
Upon landing, Odysseus tripped over one of it's 6 feet, or more likely hooked one of them in a nook or cranny and landed on its side. They got around a week to run whatever experiments they can before the lunar night sets in. It is not designed to restart again. Time for a contest open to anyone to design the best mechanical configuration of a lunar lander so that it is capable of performing all it's experiments after landing. Next one in line.
The first commercial vehicle to land on the Moon has triggered some interesting thoughts about what kind of laws or regulations might be needed on the Moon.

So far, the written regulations are more like unenforceable suggestions dating back to the 70s. Basically there are two rules, 1) Don't pollute, and 2) a country is responsible for any damage one of it's craft might cause.

The commercial endeavors at the moment are more likely to be advertising gimmicks, some of which could end up leaving a trail of garbage for operations that don't play out quite right, like the landings that aren't landing on their feet.

Collecting specimens is going under the heading that possession is 100 percent of the law. There is no limit to how much can be collected. Will mining operations need fences so that no one gets hurt by falling into an open pit mine. How big a perimeter needs to be fenced off to keep people and machines safe. Current thinking is based on maritime laws which use pretty sizable boundaries. How high would the fence have to go to keep out high bouncing joggers.

Large scale mining could be viewed as marring the surface of the Moon. Should those activities be kept on the dark side of the Moon? Would there be a size limit for activities on the side that faces Earth so the view of the Moon from Earth remains unblemished.

There is a group trying to protect historical sites on the Moon.

The Navaho Nation tried to legally block commercial companies from putting dead bodies on the Moon for burial purposes. That was unofficially settled but not resolved when the space craft never reached the Moon. It did create a new kind of cosmic cremation.

There are plans for various kinds of observatories from optical telescopes to gravity wave detectors. Would regulations be needed concerning lighting and how close drilling operations or anything creating vibrations could be to the observatories.

Countries are extending their legal jurisdiction from the sky on out to the celestial heavens. At this time, whatever legal actions would be carried out by governments concerning their citizen's actions would be taken care of once said citizen is back on Earth.

It looks like gun totting space station sheriff Sean Connery could become a practical reality as the Moon becomes the next wild frontier.
There is a practical solution for the landing situation. The ball structures that deliver equipment to Mars could also be used for the Moon landings.
It still beggars belief that more than 50 years ago the first shot of a Moon landing did so, whereas now - with all our extra knowledge and vastly superior technology - it's more likely that a mission will fail than succeed.
It still beggars belief that more than 50 years ago the first shot of a Moon landing did so
Soft landing being the important consideration: List of missions to the Moon - Wikipedia The table will show a long list of failures before successes became more common.

I do agree with the point that the US seems to be having more problems with landers than other nations, which is surprising given the Mars successes. It's possible the top experts are all engaged in other missions and the commercial players are just feeling their way around.