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The Lunar Lander Odysseus Has Released More Images from Its Perilous Descent

New photos of the lunar surface taken by the Odysseus spacecraft during the lander’s terrifying approach to the moon have been released. Being the first American-built lander to land on the moon since the Apollo period, the vehicle achieved a soft landing on the moon on Thursday.

The firm that created Odysseus, Intuitive Machines, released the pixelated pictures early Monday morning. Although communication with the spacecraft has proven difficult, the corporation had originally predicted that the lander might provide the first photographs taken from the lunar surface in the hours following touchdown.

According to Intuitive Machines, the mission crew believes Odysseus stumbled on the lunar surface and landed on its side, resting on a boulder. This may have caused part of the vehicle’s antennas to point in an unfavorable direction.

The business said in its Monday update that it now anticipates losing touch with Odysseus on Tuesday, which is a few days earlier than originally anticipated.

“Until the lander’s solar panels are no longer exposed to light, flight controllers intend to collect data,” the business stated in an update shared on the social networking site X. “Based on Earth and Moon positioning, we believe flight controllers will continue to communicate with Odysseus until Tuesday morning.”

Odysseus will have spent less than five days on the lunar surface by that time. Prior updates from the firm had indicated that the lander may last up to nine days.

What the photos of Odysseus reveal

A picture of the moon’s Schomberger crater that the spacecraft took while descending was made public by the firm on Friday.

The pictures released on Monday offer a another look into Odysseus’ journey.

About the sharper of the two spacecraft photos released on Monday on X, the company stated, “Odysseus captured this image approximately 35 seconds after pitching over during its approach to the landing site.”

It was anticipated that just before landing, the spacecraft would “pitch over,” or flip upright after traveling through space horizontally.

Referring to the right rear section of the car, the Intuitive Machines post stated, “The camera is on the starboard aft-side of the lander in this phase.”

An photograph of Odysseus’ landing location was also taken from a distance by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, which has been orbiting the moon since 2009.

Odysseus’ exact location was shared by Intuitive Machines: the spacecraft is positioned on the moon at 80.13°S and 1.44°E, resting at an elevation of around 2,579 meters (8,500 feet).

The vehicle “representing the furthest south any vehicle has been able to land on the Moon and establish communication with ground controllers,” according to the corporation, landing within 1.5 kilometers (5,000 feet) of its planned landing position.

Six science and technology demonstration payloads from NASA are traveling to the moon on Odysseus thanks to a contract worth up to $118 million that the space agency paid Intuitive Machines to execute.

A few private sector items were also transported by Odysseus, such as an artwork and an EagleCam camera that was intended to detach from the lander and take a “selfie” of the ship as it descended to its final destination.

However, due to unforeseen navigational problems, EagleCam—which was created by students at Florida’s Embry-Riddle University—was not expelled, forcing the lander to rely on NASA experimental hardware.

The possible deployment of EagleCam is still being considered by teams on the ground, given the knowledge that Odysseus is lying on its side.

“Embry-Riddle provided an update on Sunday, saying that “Telemetry data confirms that the Embry‑Riddle CubeSat is still fully operational, however, and the team now intends to deploy its camera system to capture imagery of the lander in its current state, offering valuable data that could help Intuitive Machines refine its plans moving forward,”

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