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Fresh pictures reveal a never-before-seen perspective of the Odysseus spaceship touching down on the moon

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Amazing new pictures from the Odysseus mission show the spaceship, the first one made in the US, softly landing on the moon after a nerve-wracking journey. Intuitive Machines, the company from Houston that created the Odysseus lander, revealed these photos during a news event on Wednesday. At the briefing, Intuitive Machines and NASA, which funded the mission’s scientific tools, also said that all of Odysseus’ gadgets are sending information. This led them to declare the mission a success, even though there were challenges during the spacecraft’s exciting descent.

People in charge of the mission were happy about the achievement, praising the “strong and lucky lander” for its fantastic job getting to the moon, according to Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the spaceship continued to send data from its location near the moon’s south pole.

Odysseus had some trouble navigating before it landed on the moon last Thursday. When it finally landed in a worn-out crater near the less-explored south pole of the moon, it stumbled and ended up leaning on its side, according to Intuitive Machines.

The vehicle stayed upright with the engine running for a while, and then, as the engine slowed down, it gently tipped over, explained Altemus.

As of the news briefing on Friday by NASA and Intuitive Machines, the condition of the spacecraft and its instruments was not yet clear. However, on Wednesday, officials shared that Odysseus defied the odds by sending data from all six NASA instruments and payloads from commercial companies.

Despite the landing hiccup, the instruments on Odysseus were successful in gathering information during its journey to the moon and the critical descent moments. NASA’s Navigation Doppler Lidar, for instance, transitioned from an experimental instrument to a crucial one in the final hours before the touchdown.

Joel Kearns from NASA’s science mission directorate said, “The big goal was to land your equipment softly so you could get data from it after you land — and that was done successfully.”

One of the NASA payloads, SCALPSS, intended to study how the lunar soil reacted to Odysseus’ engine, faced a hardware issue and didn’t collect data during the touchdown. However, the teams on the ground troubleshooted and started dispatching data. All other instruments on Odysseus worked well, providing valuable information for engineers and scientists.

The future of Odysseus is uncertain as it enters a lunar night period with ultra-freezing temperatures, posing a risk of damage. Altemus mentioned that the lander might stop transmitting data on Wednesday night, and they plan to put it to sleep, expecting to wake it up in the next two or three weeks.

Odysseus’ journey to the moon happened closely following two other missions: India’s Chandrayaan-3 and Japan’s SLIM. Chandrayaan-3 landed a lander in the same region as Odysseus, though not as close to the pole, while SLIM landed a spacecraft called “Moon Sniper” closer to the equator. Moon Sniper recently reawakened after experiencing lunar night, but Chandrayaan-3 has not.

Odysseus had a little hiccup when it decided to take a nap on its side, leaving a couple of its antennas pointing in the wrong direction. This made the engineers on the ground scratch their heads and try to figure out how to grab as much data as possible. It’s an ongoing puzzle-solving mission in mission control.

The times when Odysseus hits its milestones keep changing, making it a bit tricky to predict.

We still don’t know a lot about the moon’s south pole, where the spacecraft parked itself. NASA and others are super interested in this spot because they think it might have a stash of ice, which could be a big deal for astronauts’ water or even fuel for future space trips.

Odysseus made history by being the first American vehicle to touch the moon since way back in 1972, and it’s extra special because it’s the first private spaceship made by a company, not the government, to softly land on the moon.

The Odysseus mission was part of NASA’s plan to get private companies to explore the moon with their fancy landers before sending NASA’s own astronauts there, maybe in the next few years.

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