“We have quite a bit of operational capability even though we’re tipped over.”

Lay Down

The new Moon lander, built and operated by a private company with funding from NASA, is down pretty bad.

The 14-foot tall lander, built by the Houston-based company Intuitive Machines and launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, did land successfully and is “alive and well,” per an update from the company. There’s just one small problem, as Space.com and others report: it’s on its side after catching its “foot” on a rock and falling over.

Odysseus, as the lander is named, took some pretty complex last-minute maneuvering to make Moonfall safely after its rocky road to the Moon.

As Space.com explains, the craft’s handlers realized that its laser rangefinders weren’t working as it neared its scheduled descent. Thinking fast, they found a workaround using an experimental NASA instrument known as the “Navigation Doppler Lidar for Precise Velocity and Range Sensing,” or NDL for short — though clearly, it only kind of worked.

Along with tipping over, the lander also did not deploy its camera — though, to be fair, it did beam back some pretty spectacular selfies with Earth during its “spicy” week-long journey, as Intuitive Machines’ CEO co-founder Steve Altemus called it during a press conference.

Good Enough

Despite the drama, the company insists the lander is doing well, all things considered.

“So far, we have quite a bit of operational capability even though we’re tipped over,” Altemus said. “And so that’s really exciting for us, and we’re continuing the surface operations mission as a result of it.”

As part of NASA’s new era of public-private partnership, the lander has lots hanging on it as the first privately-built craft to successfully land on the Moon and the first American one to do so since NASA’s Voyager 17 in 1972. That said, India and Japan did both beat the US in getting crafts on the Moon in recent months, though the Japanese one also landed wrong.

Launched at the end of last week, the Intuitive Machines lander’s success or failure is, understandably, a huge deal for both NASA and Intuitive Machines. Therefore, before it became clear that Odysseus was sittin’ sideways, NASA administrator Bill Nelson called its landing a “triumph” and declared that it had “taken the Moon.”

“This feat is a giant leap forward for all of humanity,” Nelson said soon after the landing success had been announced, per Space.com. “Stay tuned!”

As such, the wonkiness of the Odysseus landing, along with the other NASA-funded attempt at a lunar lander that failed outright early last month, could be seen as a hit for the agency and the company that launched it — though given that it landed on the lunar surface at all, it’s not as bad as it could be.

More on Moon missions: NASA Reportedly Forced to Push Back Moon Landing After SpaceX Fails to Deliver Starship


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