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Final images from Odysseus, lying on its side

One of three pictures downloaded after landing
Click for original picture.

In a press conference yesterday, NASA and the private company Intuitive Machines released three pictures taken by the Odysseus lunar lander after it came down a bit too fast, skidded on the ground so that one leg broke, and then tilted over.

The first images from the lunar surface are now available and showcase the orientation of the lander along with a view of the South Pole region on the Moon. Intuitive Machines believes the two actions captured in one of their images enabled Odysseus to gently lean into the lunar surface, preserving the ability to return scientific data.

The best picture, reduced and annotated to post here, is to the right. The spacecraft is tilted about 30 degrees from the vertical. Another picture showed the broken leg on the lander’s other side. The “two actions” mentioned in the NASA quote above refer to the issues that caused the broken leg: the limited ground data the lander used to land, and its larger than expected lateral speed.

The spacecraft is expected to be shut down by today because of lack of power and the advent of the long lunar night. Company officials remain hopeful it will come back to life when the sun rises in several weeks.

Officials from both NASA and Intuitive Machines have correctly noted that this was an engineering test mission, so even these failures make it a success in that the company can use them to improve the next lander. Nonetheless, it would have been nice if things had worked better on this first flight, especially because the problem that led to all the breakdowns, the failure to turn the lander’s range finding system back on after installation on the rocket, was an incredibly stupid human error that should not have happened at all.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Ken

    Given that the moon’s surface is strewn with boulders, impact craters etc – am I the only person that thought this lander’s leg width was too thin? I’m thinking the bottom of the lander should be spread out more to help prevent toppling over.

    I’m not an engineer.

  • Tom

    With all of the positioning instruments that went south just before landing, I’m amazed that it made it in the shape it’s in and not strewn across the landscape.

  • pawn

    Has anyone commented on the supposed fact that it landed over a kilometer from it’s target?

    Was this due to the primary navigation system being unavailable?

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