First contact: Odysseus sends images showing moment it touched the Moon

Intuitive Machine has released the first pictures taken by the Odysseus spacecraft as it approached the moon and the legs touched down on the surface near the lunar south pole.Â

The pictures show the moments the spacecraft approached the Moon’s surface following a controlled descent from above. The lander’s propulsion system created a dust storm on the surface, kicking off debris from the silent world of the Moon.Â

Nasa in a press conference said that Intuitive Machines believes the two actions captured in one of their images enabled Odysseus to gently lean into the lunar surface, preserving the ability to return scientific data. After successfully transmitting the image to Earth, there is additional insight into Odysseus’ position on the lunar surface.Â

first contact: odysseus sends images showing moment it touched the moon

The IM-1 Mission successfully landed the first spacecraft on the Moon’s south pole region, marking the United States’ first return since Apollo 17. (Photo: IM)

The images show the orientation of the lander along with a view of the South Pole region on the Moon. This was the first time that an American spacecraft landed on the Moon in over half a century since Apollo 17.Â

The pictures beamed back by Odysseus show the moment its landing strut performs its primary task, absorbing first contact with the lunar surface to preserve mission integrity.

Following its touchdown on the Moon, engineers commanded Odysseus to capture a new image using its narrow-field-of-view camera.  “After successfully transmitting the image to Earth, flight controllers received additional insight into Odysseus’ position on the lunar surface,” Intuitive Machines said.Â

first contact: odysseus sends images showing moment it touched the moon

Odysseus captured this image using its narrow-field-of-view camera. (Photo: IM)

Despite persistent difficulties in communicating with the lander and keeping its solar batteries charged, Nasa said it managed to extract some data from all six of its science payloads delivered by Odysseus, built and flown by Texas-based Intuitive Machines (LUNR.O)

More precise estimates of how much research data and imagery were collected from Nasa’s experiments and a half-dozen commercial payloads, and how much was lost, would come later, officials said.

Nasa and Intuitive Machines had said before the mission’s launch that its payloads should operate on the lunar surface for roughly seven days before lunar nightfall.

first contact: odysseus sends images showing moment it touched the moon

IM-1

The six-legged Nova-C-class lander, shaped like a hexagonal cylinder and standing 13 feet (4 m) tall, was launched on Feb. 15 from Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a Falcon 9 rocket supplied by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. It arrived in lunar orbit six days later.

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