Intuitive Machines: The Moon Lander is pictured on its side with a severed leg

  • By Jonathan Amos
  • Science reporter

image source, Intuitive machines

image caption,

Odysseus at the moment of touchdown. The leg on the left is broken

The first clear images of the Odysseus robot on the lunar surface have just been released.

They include a shot of the American mission lying on his side with a broken leg on a touchdown.

The spacecraft then continued to work, however, sending back data about the lunar environment.

Last Thursday, Odysseus became the first privately-built vehicle to complete a soft landing on the moon.

Despite the awkward orientation it eventually adopted, US space agency administrator Bill Nelson said the robot should be celebrated.

NASA contracted with Houston-based operating company Intuitive Machines to carry six scientific instruments on the lander.

“Odysseus is a success,” the agency chief told reporters. “We're on day six of what was planned to be an eight-day mission, and we're still getting data from those instruments.”

image source, Intuitive machines

image caption,

The robot lies at an angle of about 30 degrees to the surface

Odysseus' ancestry was, clearly, a little hairy.

The robot must descend vertically at a speed of one meter per second.

In the event, it came three times faster with an element of lateral movement that caused a skid. This probably led to broken landing gear and tip-over.

Odysseus is thought to be resting at a 30-degree angle in one of its yellow helium pressure tanks.

The craft communicates with Houston through its low-gain antennas.

image source, Intuitive machines

image caption,

Artwork: How Odysseus is imagined to see the moon before launching

Engineers expect the robot to hibernate on Friday. Its South Pole landing pad will soon be plunged into darkness as the sun disappears below the horizon, preventing the craft's solar cells from charging their batteries.

But when the “lunar day” returns in two earth weeks, attempts will be made to revive Odysseus.

“We'll start listening at sunrise at our place and see if 'Odi' wakes up from sleep,” said Tim Crain, chief technology officer and co-founder of Intuitive Machines.

image source, Intuitive machines

image caption,

Landing view using fisheye camera

The Intuitive Engines mission is part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, in which the agency pays various private U.S. companies for cargo services to the Moon.

NASA sees the CLPS approach as a more economical way to get its science out there while seeding what it hopes will become a thriving lunar economy.

Intuitive machines have two more missions in the pipeline for 2024. Next a robot will drill the surface.

“We've opened the door to a strong and thriving syslunar economy in the future. It's compelling,” said Steve Altemus, CEO and co-founder of Intuitive Machines.

“I think this CLPS test, this first landing, the first (US) success on the moon in 52 years, is really a point in history that we should celebrate.”

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