Skip to main content

See images of the tilted Odysseus lander on the moon

The first lunar landing by a U.S. entity in 50 years was celebrated last week, but the lander from Intuitive Machines, named Odysseus, has had a challenging time as it landed at a tilted angle. New images released by the company show the damage that the Odysseus lander incurred during landing and sitting tilted on the moon’s surface, but the company stressed that it considered the mission a success as it was able to perform a controlled soft landing and get science data from all of its payloads.

The lander is expected to run out of power within a few hours, but there is a possibility the company will be able to power it back on in a couple of weeks once the lunar night ends.

This image retrieved from the lander on February 27 captures Odysseus’ landing strut duringlanding on February 22nd performing its primary task, absorbing first contact with the lunar surface. Meanwhile, the lander’s liquid methane and liquid oxygen engine is still throttling, which provided stability. The Company believes the two insights captured in this image enabled Odysseus to gently lean into the lunar surface, preserving the ability to return scientific data.
This image retrieved from the lander on February 27 captures Odysseus’ landing strut during landing on February 22nd performing its primary task, absorbing first contact with the lunar surface. Meanwhile, the lander’s liquid methane and liquid oxygen engine is still throttling, which provided stability. Intuitive Machines

The image shows the damage to the landing leg on the left side of the image here. It also shows the cloud of dust and rocks that were thrown up by the lander’s engines interacting with the moon’s surface in a known phenomenon called a plume effect. The damage to the leg seems to have occurred as the mission touched down around one mile from the planned landing site in an area with higher elevation, the company said in a briefing, causing the lander to come in faster than planned and making it skid across the surface.

Taken on February 27th, flight controllers commanded Odysseus to capture a new imageusing its narrow-field-of-view camera. Previous attempts to send photos from landing and the days following returned unusable imagery. After successfully transmitting the image to Earth, flight controllers received additional insight into Odysseus’ position on the lunar surface
Taken on February 27th, flight controllers commanded Odysseus to capture a new image using its narrow-field-of-view camera. Previous attempts to send photos from landing and the days following returned unusable imagery. Intuitive Machines

The image shows how the Odysseus lander came to rest on the moon’s surface, tilted at an angle of around 30%. The large gold foil item is a helium tank.

The lander was not entirely on its side, as originally thought. It was “more upright than we initially thought,” Steve Altemus, chief executive officer and co-founder of Intuitive Machines, said in the briefing. “We did land upright, we captured data, then we tilted over slowly in about two seconds and came to rest either on the opposite helium tank or a computer shelf and were able to communicate all six [NASA] payloads back, plus all six commercial payloads.”

The lander had communications problems in the first few days of landing, but the team eventually got a small amount of data from the various NASA payloads on board. “Instead of ending up with a few bytes of data, which was the baseline goal for us, we’ve got over 50MB of data,” said Sue Lederer, CLPS project scientist at NASA Johnson.

The mission had a variety of challenges, including a drift in the control of the spacecraft using its engines, which had to be patched, and ending up in the wrong orbit before landing, which required a correction maneuver. Despite difficulties with the landing and communications, however, NASA and Intuitive Machines say that the mission was a success. Altemus described the mission as a pathfinder and stressed that “the whole idea of this mission was not to live as long as you could on the surface. This mission was intended as a scout.”

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
It’s exactly 20 years since a Mars rover took this historic image
The first photo of Earth taken from the surface of another planet.

This is the first image taken of Earth from the surface of another planet. It was captured by NASA's Mars rover, Spirit, one hour before sunrise on the 63rd martian day, or sol, of its mission in 2004. NASA/JPL/Cornell/Texas AM

Twenty years ago, on March 8, a NASA Mars rover made history when it captured the first image of Earth from the surface of another planet.

Read more
See what James Webb and Hubble are observing right now with this tool
james webb hubble live tracker screenshot 2024 03 06 220259

If you're looking for a relaxing way to peruse the fascinating sights of space on your lunch break, then a newly updated tool from NASA has you covered. The Space Telescope Live tools show the current targets of the James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope, letting you browse the cosmos from the perspective of two of the hardest-working telescopes out there.

You can visit the web-based tools at WebbTelescope for the James Webb Space Telescope and HubbleSite for the Hubble Space Telescope. Clicking on a link will bring you to a portal showing the current and past observations of the telescope and a ton of detail about the observations.

Read more
Odysseus lunar lander sends a ‘fitting farewell transmission’ to Earth
An image captured by Intuitive Machines' Odysseus lunar lander.

Despite a messy landing that left the Odysseus spacecraft with a broken leg and tilting over, the team at Intuitive Machines has hailed its IM-1 lunar mission a success.

That’s because it managed to get Odysseus onto the lunar surface largely in one piece and operating well enough to send data back to Earth.

Read more