June 16, 2024

Archie Wertheim

Technology Integration and Foundations for Effective Leadership

The Odysseus lunar lander is on its side and will likely run out of energy soon

2 min read
The Odysseus lunar lander is on its side and will likely run out of energy soon

The Odysseus lander is likely to remain operating for another 24 hours on the Moon’s surface, despite being tipped over onto its side. Intuitive Machines, the private space company behind Odysseus, tweeted a few images taken by the spacecraft and gave more updates on how long the team expects it will remain operational.

Because of Odysseus’ landing position, the panels and antennas aren’t oriented exactly as planned, making it harder for it to generate power and communicate. Controllers on Earth will continue to collect data until its solar panels are no longer exposed to sunlight, which they anticipate will happen on Tuesday morning.

The landing almost didn’t happen at all. During a press conference Friday, executives explained the safety switches for the lander’s two range finder lasers were enabled, meaning they couldn’t be used to guide the craft during its landing, The New York Times reports.

Luckily, there was an experimental lidar system by NASA on board the spacecraft. Engineers working for Intuitive Machines scrambled last minute and designed a software patch to retrieve the required altitude and velocity data from the NASA system to ensure the spacecraft’s safe landing.

Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus also confirmed during the briefing that the only cargo on the side facing down is a piece of art sent by a commercial customer, referring to the sculpture of 125 miniature moons designed by the artist Jeff Koons. The issues with Odysseus’ navigation system also derailed the deployment of EagleCam, a camera that was meant to be ejected during the lander’s descent. Intuitive Machines may still deploy the camera at a later date, the team at Embry‑Riddle Aeronautical University that developed the camera told CNBC. 

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