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Odysseus lunar lander fell over on touchdown

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Odysseus lunar lander fell over on touchdown

Intuitive Machines says that its Odysseus Moon lander tripped and fell over on touchdown and is now lying on its side. One of the legs of the robotic spacecraft dug into the lunar surface during landing maneuvers, making it fall over on a rock.

When the IM-1 mission set down on the Moon at 6:24 pm EST on February 22, 2024, it looked as if the US had returned to the Moon after over half a century without a major problem. The first privately owned and operated spacecraft to set down on our satellite, it did have a few moments of drama when it landed when communications took longer than expected, but otherwise it seemed to be plain sailing.

At least, that’s what Mission Control thought until they started looking at the telemetry. According to Steve Altemus, chief executive officer and co-founder, Intuitive Machines, at a NASA press conference, the power output from the solar panels wasn’t quite what it should have been and the levels in the propellant tanks indicated that Odysseus was lying on its side.

Odysseus Tilt

What appears to have happened was that as the lander was approaching its target area, it was flying autonomously at a speed of about 6 mph (9.6 km/h) downward and 2 mph (3.2 km/h) laterally. When Odysseus (or “Odie”) came into contact with the surface, a leg dug in, fell into a crater, or hit an obstacle and sent the craft into a tilt. From the attitude, which is almost horizontal, it seems to have come to rest on a rock.

The good news is that the spacecraft appears to be in good shape and is operating normally. The batteries are fully charged and the distribution of the solar panels means that it isn’t in the same trouble that the earlier Japanese SLIM lander had when it fell on its nose. All of the payloads are functioning and are returning data.

The only real drawback is that the communication link is not as strong as it could be. It appears that because of the new attitude of the Nova-C class lander, the radio signals aren’t transmitting as they should, so Mission Control has to rely on more powerful stations like Goonhilly in the UK to receive data.

Odysseus is expected to continue operations until the Sun sets at its landing set in about 10 days.

Source: Intuitive Machines

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