Odysseus Lander Tipped Over at Touchdown But Remains Functional

Contrary to initial reports, the Odysseus spacecraft by Intuitive Machines did not quite land as planned on its recent mission. It was reported at a NASA press conference that the lander is not in an upright position, but rather lying on its side after a slightly more rapid descent than forecasted. It’s speculated that the spacecraft’s foot caught on the lunar surface during touchdown. Despite the unconventional landing, Odysseus is still receiving adequate sunlight on its solar panels to stay charged, and communication with the craft continues. Images from the lander should be available soon.

Originally, it was believed that Odysseus had a successful, upright landing. Detailed examination, however, revealed that this was a misinterpretation due to “outdated telemetry,” according to Intuitive Machines CEO and co-founder, Steve Altemus. All payloads, excluding the static art installation Moon Phases by Jeff Koons, landed on the overturned side of the spacecraft. The data collected during the journey, descent, and landing are currently being analyzed to understand the landing mishap. Despite the setback, the mission is faring well overall.

An immediate plan is to dispatch the EagleCam, a project led by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students, to capture an image of the lander and the surrounding area. This step was initially planned to happen during descent to record the landing but a problem on the day of touchdown caused a change in plan.

Furthermore, it was discovered a few hours prior to the landing attempt that crucial laser range finders were not functioning, an error attributed to human negligence. A forgotten safety switch rendered the range finders useless. The news was met with deep disappointment, as the team was under the impression that the mission could fail.

Tim Crain, the CTO and Co-founder of Intuitive Machines came up with a last-minute workaround. He suggested using one of the on-board NASA payloads, the Navigation Doppler LIDAR (NDL), to guide the descent. In the end, Odysseus reached the destination, undeterred by the hurdles. The mission is anticipated to last slightly more than a week, until lunar nightfall.