Moon Landing Photo Captures U.S. Spacecraft Right After Tipping
A U.S. business and the next generation of moonbound spacefarers are learning that landing upright on the lunar surface is much harder than it looks. Intuitive Machines' spacecraft took this selfie, pictured above, about 35 seconds after tipping over during its descent on Feb. 22. Because the lander is on its side, the mission will be forced to end prematurely. Based on the positions of Earth and the moon, they'll probably lose contact with their lander, dubbed Odysseus, on Tuesday. While some observers have criticized how "successful" this landing attempt should be considered — NASA administrator Bill Nelson was quick to say the Houston-based space contractor had "aced" the landing last week — scientists are reminding the public why this keeps happening. Japan's own lander also made it to the lunar surface last month, but with its thruster end pointing up. "When a lander is tipping, inertial forces push it over, while gravity pulls its feet back down flat. On the Moon, gravity is reduced by a factor of 6, but inertial forces are not. *Everything is 6 times tippier on the Moon*," wrote Phil Metzger, a planetary physicist at the University of Central Florida, in an X post. "You *must* plan to reduce inertial forces by a factor of SIX lower than how your hardware operates on Earth if you want things to be as stable on the Moon as they are on the Earth."