Oops: Odysseus lunar lander fell over on touchdown

Oops: Odysseus lunar lander fell over on touchdown
Artist's concept of Odysseus
Artist's concept of Odysseus
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View from Odysseus during landing
View from Odysseus during landing
Steve Altemus explains the new attitude of Odysseus
Steve Altemus explains the new attitude of Odysseus
Artist's concept of Odysseus
Artist's concept of Odysseus
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Intuitive Machines says that its Odysseus Moon lander tripped and fell over on touchdown and is now lying on its side. One of the legs of the robotic spacecraft dug into the lunar surface during landing maneuvers, making it fall over on a rock.

When the IM-1 mission set down on the Moon at 6:24 pm EST on February 22, 2024, it looked as if the US had returned to the Moon after over half a century without a major problem. The first privately owned and operated spacecraft to set down on our satellite, it did have a few moments of drama when it landed when communications took longer than expected, but otherwise it seemed to be plain sailing.

At least, that's what Mission Control thought until they started looking at the telemetry. According to Steve Altemus, chief executive officer and co-founder, Intuitive Machines, at a NASA press conference, the power output from the solar panels wasn't quite what it should have been and the levels in the propellant tanks indicated that Odysseus was lying on its side.

Odysseus Tilt

What appears to have happened was that as the lander was approaching its target area, it was flying autonomously at a speed of about 6 mph (9.6 km/h) downward and 2 mph (3.2 km/h) laterally. When Odysseus (or "Odie") came into contact with the surface, a leg dug in, fell into a crater, or hit an obstacle and sent the craft into a tilt. From the attitude, which is almost horizontal, it seems to have come to rest on a rock.

The good news is that the spacecraft appears to be in good shape and is operating normally. The batteries are fully charged and the distribution of the solar panels means that it isn't in the same trouble that the earlier Japanese SLIM lander had when it fell on its nose. All of the payloads are functioning and are returning data.

The only real drawback is that the communication link is not as strong as it could be. It appears that because of the new attitude of the Nova-C class lander, the radio signals aren't transmitting as they should, so Mission Control has to rely on more powerful stations like Goonhilly in the UK to receive data.

Odysseus is expected to continue operations until the Sun sets at its landing set in about 10 days.

Source: Intuitive Machines

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Rick O
When I saw the first pictures from the machine, I thought "Isn't that a landing leg? Why is that not on the ground?". I didn't see any reports that it had fallen over, so I assumed there was just another leg there to catch it, if the vertically designed module fell over. Apparently my opinions on the design and original observations were correct. Who greenlit such a top heavy design? These are supposed to be some of the brightest minds designing these things, and they forgot that Center of Gravity is important. I'm a bit concerned for our species.
Since uneven terrain is expected, they should be designing landers for that. There should be some lightweight methods of righting a lander, or pogoing out of a bad spot. Such methods are probably lighter than an onboard AI suitable for avoiding bad landing spots. Hmmm, maybe a lunar orbiter (to avoid lag) with the computer power necessary to process images from the lander's camera and direct the control jets? All the countries planning lunar landers could chip in for that orbiter.
Bad engineering. Top heavy . Need a more pyramid shape with majority of weight low. What about legs mounted higher and telescoping like a spider? That way the craft can telescope legs to maximum and as get inches from surface they raise up and put bulk of craft almost on surface and thus impossible to fall over. Also a gyroscope could be use spinning like a top and that will prevent tipping. With both Amrican AND japanese crafts ending up either on sidd or upside down they need rethink shape to pryamidal.
How about having zero lateral speed when it lands? Also I don't see the point of putting the effort , the resources and the money for something that will only last a month.
Pretty clumsy design for a bunch of rocket scientists. Seriously, is there no shape (sphere, barbell, snake, hoop, flat) that doesn't tip over? Maybe it's time to include a little robot monkey to hop out and push these things back up. Maybe send a service robot to the moon to tip all the toppled landers upright. Charge a couple million bucks for each home visit.
Brian M
I know gravity is less on the moon, but as others are pointing out these landers seem unstable and top heavy, they just look wrong to this earthlings engineering eye!
Perhaps they would be better off using the old technique used on Mars with bouncy balloons landings? Take it down to 100 feet above ground then blow up balloons quickly and let it bounce around until it stops and with self levelling design it always lands upright.
When I was a child I played with a toy it was called Weebles. And Weebles wobbled but they didn't fall down.
One can't help to ponder whether or not this is indicative of the "talent" that 20 years of social media has created. Highly disappointing, to say the least; 0 for 2.
Louis Vaughn
Such good comments.
I'm curious though; first the Japanese lander tips over on it's head; now the Intuitive Machines trips on it's leg.
Did the same engineers design both landers?
Has anyone considered mischievous little green, or gray aliens with a playful sense of humor!?
Next stop; Mars.