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In a First, Commercial Lunar Lander Survives Descent but Tips Over

FEB 26, 2024
The landing is the first by the US since 1972.
Jacob Taylor headshot
Senior Editor for Science Policy, FYI American Institute of Physics
Odysseus Lander Image Feb 22 2024.jpg

The Odysseus lunar lander imaged on Feb. 22 by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

(NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center / Arizona State University)

The uncrewed lander Odysseus touched down on the Moon’s surface last week, the first landing by a private company and the first U.S. landing since 1972.

The landing was not without issues, however. Laser rangefinders intended to guide the lander to the surface were not properly activated before the launch, but its controllers were able to improvise a solution using Lidar equipment included with a NASA technology demonstration experiment on board.

The lander still ended up descending faster than intended, resulting in it tipping over. Since the tipped side carried communications antennae, the lander’s data transmission with Earth is slower than planned. The company that built the lander, Intuitive Machines, anticipates it will be able to continue communicating with the lander until Feb. 27.

President Joe Biden issued a statement praising the landing, calling it “a thrilling step forward in a new era of space exploration.” Intuitive Machines plans to launch a second lander later this year.

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