×

Private spacecraft is on its side on the moon, company says

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A private U.S. spacecraft that touched down on the moon ended up on its side, company officials said Friday.

The Odysseus lander was communicating with ground controllers and was sending back data after landing Thursday.

Intuitive Machines, the company that built the six-footed lander, initially said it was upright. But CEO Steve Altemus said Friday that the lander “caught a foot in the surface and tipped” and landed on its side.

It was the first U.S. moon landing in more than 50 years since the Apollo era.

Atemus said the lander was “near or at its intended landing site.” The Houston company was shooting for the south polar region, near the Malapert A crater, closer to the pole than anyone else so NASA could scout out the area before astronauts show up later this decade.

With Thursday’s touchdown, Intuitive Machines became the first private business to pull off a moon landing, a feat previously achieved by only five countries. The mission was sponsored in large part by NASA, whose experiments were on board. NASA paid $118 million for the delivery under a program meant to jump-start the lunar economy.

One of the NASA experiments was pressed into service when the lander’s navigation system failed in the final few hours before touchdown. The lander took an extra lap around the moon to allow time for the last-minute switch to NASA’s laser system.

“Odie is a scrapper,” mission director Tim Crain said late Thursday via X, formerly Twitter.

Another experiment, a cube with four cameras, was supposed to pop off 30 seconds before touchdown to capture pictures of Odysseus’ landing. But Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s EagleCam was deliberately powered off during the final descent because of the navigation switch and stayed attached to the lander.

Embry-Riddle’s Troy Henderson said his team will try to release EagleCam in the coming days, so it can photograph the lander from roughly 26 feet (8 meters) away.

With lingering uncertainty over Odysseus’ position on the moon, “getting that final picture of the lander on the surface is still an incredibly important task for us,” Henderson told The Associated Press.

Intuitive Machines anticipates just a week of operations on the moon for the solar-powered lander.

Newsletter

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *
   

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today