Odysseus Is Shut Down After Sending Snapshots From Moon Landing

Image of Odysseus moon landing
This image shows one of the Odysseus lander's legs breaking due to the shock of first contact on the moon. (Credit: Intuitive Machines)

Update: On March 23, Intuitive Machines said that its Odysseus lander failed to re-establish contact after the lunar night, and took that as confirmation that the spacecraft has “permanently faded after cementing its legacy into history as the first commercial lunar lander to land on the moon.”

Previously: Intuitive Machines says it’s putting its Odysseus moon lander to bed for a long lunar night, with hopes of reviving it once the sun rises again near the moon’s south pole.

The Houston-based company and NASA recapped Odysseus’s six days of operation on the lunar surface, shared pictures showing its off-kilter configuration, and looked ahead to the mission’s next phase during a briefing today at Johnson Space Center in Texas.

The original plan called for the solar-powered spacecraft to be turned off when the sun fell below the lunar horizon, but Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus said mission controllers would instead put the Odysseus into hibernation and try restoring contact in three weeks’ time. “We are going to leave the computers and the power system in a place where we can wake it up and do this development test objective, to actually try to ping it with an antenna and see if we can’t wake it up once it gets power again,” he told reporters.

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Odysseus Moon Lander Sends Back Selfies With Earth in the Picture

Odysseus lander selfie with Earth in background
A fisheye photo captured by a camera aboard the Odysseus lander shows the lander itself with Earth in the background. (Credit: Intuitive Machines)

Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lander has beamed back a series of snapshots that were captured as it headed out from the Earth toward the moon, and one of the pictures features Australia front and center. The shots also show the second stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched the spacecraft, floating away as Odysseus pushed onward.

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Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus Lander Begins Its Moon Odyssey

Odysseus launch on SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rises from its Florida launch pad to send Intuitive Machines' Odysseus moon lander spaceward. (NASA via YouTube)

Now it’s Intuitive Machines’ turn to try making history with a robotic moon landing.

Today’s launch of the Houston-based company’s Odysseus lander marks the first step in an eight-day journey that could lead to the first-ever soft landing of a commercial spacecraft on the moon. Odysseus would also be the first U.S.-built spacecraft to touch down safely on the lunar surface since Apollo 17’s mission in 1972.

The lander — which is as big as an old-fashioned British phone booth, or the Tardis time portal from the “Doctor Who” TV series — was sent spaceward from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 1:05 a.m. ET (0605 UTC).

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NASA Plans to Unleash a Wolf Pack of Rovers Onto the Lunar Surface in 2024

A pair of plastic prototypes of the CADRE rovers demonstrate driving in formation during a test at JPL last year. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

What’s better than one lunar rover? Three lunar rovers! In 2024, NASA plans to send a team of suitcase-sized wheeled robots to the Moon as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. Collectively called CADRE – Cooperative Autonomous Distributed Robotic Exploration – the rovers will spend one full lunar day (14 Earth days) exploring the Moon and showing off their unique capabilities.

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Masten Space is Building a Lunar Lander for NASA. Also, They Just Filed for Bankruptcy

Artist's rendering of the Masten XL-1 lander. Credit: Masten Space Systems

If you’re a fan of the commercial space industry (aka. NewSpace), then the name Masten Space Systems is sure to ring a bell. For years, this California-based aerospace company has been developing delivery systems to accommodate payloads to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. This included Xoie, the lander concept that won the $1 million Northrop Grumman Lunar X-Prize in 2009, their Xombie and Xodiac reusable terrestrial landers, and the in-Flight Alumina Spray Technique (FAST) that would allow lunar landers to create their own landing pads.

But perhaps their biggest feat was the Xelene Lunar Lander (XL-1) that they developed in partnership with the NASA Lunar CATALYST program. This lander was one of several robotic systems enlisted by NASA to deliver cargo to the Moon in support of the Artemis Program. This included the Masten-1 mission, which was scheduled to land a payload Moon’s southern polar region in 2023. The company was scheduled to make a second delivery (Masten-2) by 2024, one year before the first Artemis astronauts arrived. But according to a statement issued on July 28th, the company has filed for Chapter 11 and is bankrupt!

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NASA is Finally Sending a Lunar Lander to the Moon’s far Side

The far side of the moon has been getting more popular than a Pink Floyd album lately.  A variety of missions are planned to visit the previously overlooked side opposite Earth.  Recently NASA announced a few more, including two landers which will measure properties of the Moon’s interior.  

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