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Private lunar lander Odysseus suffered a broken leg during landing

Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lunar lander had to overcome many challenges during its historic landing on the Moon, including the failure of one or more of its legs.

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The 4.3-metre Odysseus probe touched down on the lunar surface near the moon’s south pole on Thursday (February 22), making the first American soft landing since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

 

However, the landing of the Odysseus was quite rough. Due to problems with navigation equipment, the six-legged lander descended to the surface faster than expected.

 

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“So we hit it harder and missed the mark a little bit,” Intuitive Machines CEO and co-founder Steve Altemus said during a press briefing.

 

For about two seconds after landing, Odysseus stood vertically on a surface with a slope of about 12 degrees. However, it then began to tip over and eventually stopped 30 degrees from the horizontal plane, resting on one of the tanks or other equipment, Altemus said.

 

This orientation of the apparatus was far from ideal. In particular, it prevented Odysseus from using a powerful antenna to communicate with the Earth, and the upper solar battery was in the shadow. However, Intuitive Machines made the best of the situation by transmitting surface images and scientific data through the lander’s less powerful antennas.

 

Today we saw some of these photos for the first time. One of them captures the moment of landing, and the broken support leg of the device is clearly visible.

This image illustrates the primary mission of the Odysseus landing strut – absorbing the energy of first contact with the lunar surface to maintain the operation of the device. Meanwhile, the liquid methane and liquid oxygen engine is still running, ensuring stability. The company believes these two factors, visible in the image, allowed Odysseus to land on the Moon while still being able to transmit scientific data.

 

In another post, Intuitive Machines shared a selfie taken by Odysseus himself.

 

Previous attempts to transmit photographs immediately after landing and the next day were unsuccessful. After the successful transmission of the image to Earth, the operators received additional information about the location of the device on the lunar surface.

 

Odysseus carried a payload called EagleCam, created by students at Embry-Riddle University. This camera was supposed to turn around at an altitude of about 30 meters and film the last phase of the descent. But due to navigation problems, the mission team decided to leave EagleCam on board.

 

EagleCam was finally deployed today, Altemus said. It is now about 4 meters from Odysseus, but no images have been received from the instrument yet. The EagleCam team is trying to solve this problem, “so we’ll see what happens next,” Altemus added.

 

EagleCam is one of 12 payloads aboard Odysseus, launched Feb. 15 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Six of these payloads are science experiments or technology demonstrations provided by NASA under the CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payloads) program.

 

NASA officials said data was received from all five instruments.

 

However, this flow of data will be interrupted today, when the company turns off the device’s systems before the long, cold moonlit night.

 

The Odysseus mission was originally planned for just a week – the coming night could kill the lander by damaging electronics and batteries.

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