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Odysseus at the moment of touchdown. A stantion to one leg at left is broken

By Jonathan Amos

Science correspondent


The first clear images of the Odysseus robot on the surface of the Moon have just been released.

They show the American mission lying to one side, having broken a leg on touchdown.

The spacecraft continued to work afterwards, however, sending back data about the lunar environment.

Odysseus made history last Thursday by becoming the first ever privately built vehicle to complete a soft landing on the Moon.

And despite the awkward orientation it eventually adopted, the robot should be celebrated, said US space agency administrator Bill Nelson.

The robot is lying at an angle of about 30 degrees to the surface

Nasa had contracted the operating company, Houston-based Intuitive Machines, to carry six scientific instruments on board the lander.

“Odysseus is a success,” the agency chief told reporters. “We are in the sixth day of what was planned as an eight-day mission, and we’re still receiving data from those instruments.”

Engineers expect the robot to go into hibernation on Friday at the latest. Its south pole landing site will soon go into darkness as the Sun disappears over the horizon, and this will prevent the craft’s solar cells from charging the battery.

But when the “lunar day” returns in two Earth weeks’ time, efforts will be made to revive Odysseus.

The Intuitive Machines mission is part of Nasa’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) programme, in which the agency is paying various private American companies for cargo services to the Moon.

Nasa regards the CLPS approach as a more economical way of getting its science done, while at the same time seeding what it hopes will become a thriving lunar economy.

Intuitive Machines has two further missions in prospect for 2024. The next will see a robot drill into the surface.

“We’ve kicked open the door for a robust thriving cislunar economy in the future. That’s compelling,” said Steve Altemus, chief executive officer and co-founder of Intuitive Machines

“I think this CLPS experiment, this first landing, the success on the Moon for first time (by the US) in 52 years, is really a point in history that we should celebrate.”

A view of the landing using the fish-eye camera
Artwork: How Odysseus was imagined to look on the Moon before launch

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