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Montana residents working with NASA say lunar landing a success

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Posted at 8:27 AM, Feb 28, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-28 10:27:13-05

BILLINGS - The lunar landing this week has some people in Billings excited.

Two women with ties to NASA consider this mission a success and say information and lessons can be important for the country, the world, and students.

Intuitive Machines in Houston put up Odysseus as part of NASA's Artemis lunar exploration plan.

The private, American-built lunar lander was expected to lose power on Tuesday, just days after touching down on the moon.

Odysseus tipped over while touching down near the moon's south pole Friday after one of its legs got stuck in a ditch.

That compromised communications and power, but all was not lost.

The company was still collecting data from the craft in the final hours on Tuesday.

Odysseus was the first U.S. spacecraft to land safely on the moon in more than 50 years.

“It's successful,” said Florence Gold, NASA HUNCH academy manager and western and NE region mentor. “I'm clapping. I'm real happy about it because it didn't crash.”

Even when the lunar module was believed to be on its side and before the battery failures, Gold said anything that comes out of this mission is a success.

“NASA has a saying, failure is not an option,” Gold said. “We consider it a learning opportunity to see what went wrong and how we can fix it in the future."

"Take the entire mission, break it down, and figure out what were successes,” said Dr. Elaine Westbrook, MSU Billings assistant professor. “What weren't successes? Do we want to move beyond that?"

Westbrook specializes in Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education at the MSUB College of Education.

She has worked with NASA through the Montana Space Grant Consortium to help students interested in the space program.

"There's a lot of training to have engineers go through a process of how to design a project but also to work collaboratively in a team," Westbrook said.

Gold works for NASA and the HUNCH Program, which gives high school students a chance to develop technology for the space program.

"I have students who make projects,” Gold said. “I tell them, I don't even want you to make that project unless you can think of a reason how it will benefit people on earth."

Even if this is all the information from this mission, they say it will help in space and on Earth.

“We're definitely using a lot of that information for everyday life," Westbrook said.

"One of my favorite things about this space exploration, it's such a big task, we need the world to do it,” Gold said. “And it's proven we get along with nations that don't get along when they're working on such a task is this."