Moon lander pictured on its side with snapped leg

Connie Queline

Moon lander pictured on its side with snapped leg

Intuitive Machines

The first clear images of the Odysseus robot on the surface of the Moon have just been released.

They include a view of the American mission lying to one side, having broken a leg on touchdown.

The spacecraft continued to work afterwards, however, sending back data about the lunar environment.

Odysseus made history last Thursday by becoming the first ever privately built vehicle to complete a soft landing on the Moon.

And despite the awkward orientation it eventually adopted, the robot should be celebrated, said US space agency administrator Bill Nelson.

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Nasa had contracted the operating company, Houston-based Intuitive Machines, to carry six scientific instruments on board the lander.

“Odysseus is a success,” the agency chief told reporters. “We are in the sixth day of what was planned as an eight-day mission, and we’re still receiving data from those instruments.”

The robot is lying at an angle of about 30 degrees to the surface

Intuitive Machines

Odysseus’ descent, clearly, was a little hairy.

The robot was supposed to come down vertically with a speed of one metre per second.

In the event, it came in three times faster with an element of sideways movement that resulted in a skid. This probably led to the broken landing gear and the tip-over.

Odysseus is thought to be resting on one of its yellow helium pressure tanks at an angle to the surface of 30 degrees.

The craft has been communicating with Houston via its low-gain antennas.

Artwork: Odysseus

Intuitive Machines

Engineers expect the robot to go into hibernation on Friday at the latest. Its south pole landing site will soon go into darkness as the Sun disappears over the horizon, and this will prevent the craft’s solar cells from charging the battery.

But when the “lunar day” returns in two Earth weeks’ time, efforts will be made to revive Odysseus.

“We’ll start listening at sunrise at our location and see if ‘Oddie’ wakes up from a nap,” said Tim Crain, chief technology officer and co-founder at Intuitive Machines.

A view of the landing using the fish-eye camera

Intuitive Machines

The Intuitive Machines mission is part of Nasa’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) programme, in which the agency is paying various private American companies for cargo services to the Moon.

Nasa regards the CLPS approach as a more economical way of getting its science done, while at the same time seeding what it hopes will become a thriving lunar economy.

Intuitive Machines has two further missions in prospect for 2024. The next will see a robot drill into the surface.

“We’ve kicked open the door for a robust thriving cislunar economy in the future. That’s compelling,” said Steve Altemus, chief executive officer and co-founder of Intuitive Machines

“I think this CLPS experiment, this first landing, the success on the Moon for first time (by the US) in 52 years, is really a point in history that we should celebrate.”

Related Topics

  • Nasa
  • Robotics
  • Exploration of the Moon
  • The Moon
  • Space exploration
  • Houston

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