Moon lander Odysseus mission shorten after sideways touchdown

Moon lander Odysseus mission to be cut short after sideways touchdown

/ 06:44 AM February 27, 2024
Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lunar lander shows an image from its Malapert A landing site on the surface of the moon, in this low resolution handout picture released February 26, 2024. Intuitive Machines/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

Engineers on Earth expect to lose radio contact with the private U.S. moon lander Odysseus on Tuesday, effectively cutting short the mission five days after its sideways touchdown, the company behind the spacecraft, Intuitive Machines, said on Monday.

NASA, which has several research instruments aboard the six-legged vehicle, had said those payloads were designed to operate for seven days on solar energy before the sun was due to set over the landing site near the moon’s south pole.

READ: US achieves first moon landing since last Apollo lunar mission


Company executives had told reporters on Friday, the day after Odysseus landed, that its payloads would be able to function for about nine or 10 days under a “best-case scenario.”


However, the company also had acknowledged then that the spacecraft had caught the bottom of one of its legs on the uneven lunar surface on its final descent and tipped over, coming to rest horizontally, apparently propped up on a rock at one end.

As a consequence, exposure of the vehicle’s solar panels to available sunlight, necessary for recharging its batteries, was left substantially limited, and two of the spacecraft’s antennae were left pointed toward the ground, impeding communications with the lander, the company said on Friday.

Intuitive Machines executives said then that its engineering teams would need more time to assess how the overall mission would be affected.

READ: Japan’s SLIM moon probe unexpectedly survives lunar night

In an update on the status of the mission posted online on Monday, the Houston-based company said: “Flight controllers intend to collect data until the lander’s solar panels are no longer exposed to light. Based on Earth and Moon positioning, we believe flight controllers will continue to communicate with Odysseus until Tuesday morning.”

Shares of Intuitive Machines plunged 35% on Monday, after falling 30% during extended trade on Friday following news of the spacecraft’s sideways landing.


Despite its less-than-ideal touchdown, Odysseus became the first U.S. spacecraft to land on the moon since NASA’s last crewed Apollo mission to the lunar surface brought astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt there in 1972. 

It was also the first lunar landing ever by a commercially manufactured and operated space vehicle, and the first under NASA’s Artemis program to return astronauts to Earth’s natural satellite later this decade, before China lands its owned crewed spacecraft there.

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TOPICS: Aerospace, NASA, technology
TAGS: Aerospace, NASA, technology

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