Odysseus' while landing on the Moon with its engine still running. Credits: Intuitive Machines

Intuitive Machines and NASA say IM-1 Lunar Lander Mission is a Success

IM-1 Lunar Lander Wraps Up Mission with Success Despite Bumpy Landing. NASA and Intuitive Machines declare mission a triumph

As the IM-1 mission entered its final phase, both Intuitive Machines and NASA hailed it as a resounding success, without hiding a challenging landing that left the spacecraft slightly off-kilter.

During a press briefing on February 28th, representatives from the space agency and the company announced that they had successfully collected data from nearly all the payloads aboard the Nova-C lander, also named Odysseus, which touched down six days prior near the Malapert A crater in the Moon’s southern polar regions.

Odysseus' while landing on the Moon with its engine still running. Credits: Intuitive Machines
Odysseus’ while landing on the Moon with its engine still running. Credits: Intuitive Machines

Steve Altemus, CEO of Intuitive Machines, remarked, “Our primary mission objectives were to execute a soft and safe landing on the lunar surface and to transmit scientific data to our clients. We’re pleased to confirm that we’ve achieved both objectives, marking this mission as an unequivocal success.”


NASA surely is satisfied

NASA confirmed receipt of data from all five of its active payloads on the IM-1 mission, with some payloads operating during transit to the moon and others providing data post-landing. A sixth payload, a laser retroreflector, is scheduled for testing in the coming months.

Joel Kearns, Deputy Associate Administrator for Exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, emphasized the significance of a soft lunar touchdown, describing the mission as a pioneering flight test.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson echoed this sentiment. “Odysseus is a success from NASA’s point of view,” Nelson said during a separate briefing earlier in the day.

The success, however, was not without its challenges. The laser rangefinders on the spacecraft were non-operational, prompting engineers to adapt software to utilize lasers on a NASA payload (the Navigation Doppler Lidar). Despite successful integration, a data flag oversight in the software resulted in the failure to process the data.

Tim Crain, Chief Technology Officer at Intuitive Machines, explained: “A missed data flag prevented the processing of data. Basically, we landed relying solely on our IMU (inertial measurement unit) and optical navigation data flow algorithms.”

A shot taken on February 27th that shows Odysseus' position on the Moon's surface. Credits: Intuitive Machines
A shot taken on February 27th that shows Odysseus’ position on the Moon’s surface. Credits: Intuitive Machines

Without altimetry data, the lander descended slightly short of its intended landing site, encountering higher terrain. “We hit harder and sort of skidded along the way,” said Altemus. The impact caused damage to at least one landing leg.

The lander settled at a 30-degree angle on a 12-degree slope upon landing, with a component hitting the surface, probably a tank. Altemus remarked on the robustness of the lander, noting that despite the rough landing, no major systems malfunctioned.


Payloads alive, future hopes

Sue Lederer, Project Scientist for NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, expressed satisfaction with the data received, stating that each payload had met its objectives to some extent.

One payload that is still unclear if failed or not is EagleCam, a student-built camera meant to capture images of the lander. Although it was deployed late, efforts were underway to address operational challenges.

As the mission approaches its conclusion, Intuitive Machines revealed that the lander’s operational time on the lunar surface totaled approximately 144 hours, or six days. Despite entering the lunar night, which could potentially render the spacecraft inoperable, there are discussions about attempting to revive it post-nightfall.

Possible concerns are batteries and power generation, but despite those, Altemus basically said that they’re in a position where trying to do so is not going to cost anything, so: “Let’s see what happens…”


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Edoardo Giammarino

Edoardo Giammarino

Co-Founder & CEO. Drummer and Red Cross Volunteer, born in 1997. I like analog photography and videomaking. Firmly music-addicted.

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