US Spacecraft Odysseus Tipped Sideways on Lunar Surface but ‘Alive & Well

Orhan Wadia
Orhan Wadia - Editor
2 Min Read
Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

The lunar lander, Odysseus, has successfully landed on the moon but is currently tilted on its side, marking a historic achievement as the first privately-owned spacecraft to reach the lunar surface. Despite this unexpected twist, the Houston-based company, Intuitive Machines, assures that Odysseus is “alive and well.”

The CEO, Stephen Altemus, disclosed that a human error affecting the spacecraft’s laser-based range finders was detected just hours before the scheduled landing. In a remarkable display of ingenuity, an emergency fix was implemented, preventing a potential crash and ensuring the continuation of the mission.

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Although Odysseus landed on its side, engineers confirm that it is stable near or at the intended landing site, close to the lunar crater Malapert A in the south pole region. Communication with the lander is ongoing, and commands are being sent from mission control operators.

Despite the sideways position, most of the six NASA science and technology payloads on Odysseus are exposed and receptive to communications. However, communication may be limited due to two antennae pointed at the surface, and the functionality of a solar energy panel is uncertain due to its wrong orientation.

The spacecraft faced challenges during its final approach and descent, encountering a navigation system problem that required an untested workaround to avoid a potential crash landing. The glitch in the laser-powered range finders was attributed to a safety switch oversight, but engineers successfully overcame it using an experimental NASA Lidar payload.

Mission director Tim Crain commended Odysseus’s flawless performance during its seven-day flight and orbit around the moon. Although Intuitive Machines’ shares took a hit in extended trade, tumbling 30%, the successful landing and ongoing communication with the lander mark a significant achievement in private space exploration.

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