April 12th, 2024

First US moon lander in half a century stops working a week after tipping over at touchdown

By Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press on February 29, 2024.

This image provided by Intuitive Machines shows a broken landing leg on the Odysseus lander. The lander touched down near the moon's south pole on Feb. 22, 2024, but then fell over on its side, hampering communications. (Intuitive Machines via AP)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – The first U.S. spacecraft to land on the moon since the Apollo astronauts fell silent Thursday, a week after breaking a leg at touchdown and tipping over near the lunar south pole.

Intuitive Machines’ lander, Odysseus, lasted longer than the company anticipated after it ended up on its side with hobbled solar power and communication.

The end came as flight controllers received one last photo from Odysseus and commanded its computer and power systems to standby. That way, the lander can wake up in another two to three weeks – if it survives the bitterly cold lunar night. Intuitive Machines spokesman Josh Marshall said these final steps drained the lander’s batteries and put Odysseus “down for a long nap.”

“Good night, Odie. We hope to hear from you again,” the company said via X, formerly Twitter.

The lander was originally intended to last about a week at the moon.

Houston-based Intuitive Machines became the first private business to land a spacecraft on the moon without crashing when Odysseus touched down Feb. 22. Only five countries had achieved that since the 1960s, including Japan, which made a sideways landing last month.

Odysseus carried six experiments for NASA, which paid $118 million for the ride. The first company to take part in NASA’s program for commercial lunar deliveries never made it to the moon; its lander came crashing back to Earth in January.

NASA views these private landers as scouts that will pave the way for astronauts due to arrive in another few years.

Until Odysseus, the last U.S. moon landing was by Apollo 17’s Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt in 1972.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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