Lunar lander Odysseus sends back first pics from its moon landing

The Odysseus lander transmitted its first photos from the surface of the moon Monday, a milestone for the first lunar probe operated by a private company.

On Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024 the Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lunar lander captures a wide field of view image of Schomberger crater on the Moon approximately 125 miles (200 km) uprange from the intended landing site, at approximately about 6 miles (10 km) altitude. (Intuitive Machines via AP)

Odysseus touched down near the south pole of the moon Thursday, becoming the first American probe to land on the moon in more than 50 years. The mission was a success but faced setbacks after the probe tipped over on landing. It is now lying on its side.

The fisheye lens photo shows the bottom legs of the probe sticking up from the gray, rocky lunar surface. Additional imagery showed the moon’s surface as the probe descended, some of the closest images of the moon’s south pole region ever taken.

The south pole is of special interest to scientists because it is believed the region could contain water ice reserves and mineral deposits. NASA plans to send manned missions to the region in the future.

Odysseus was developed by Intuitive Machines, a Houston-based aerospace firm that counted NASA among its customers alongside other aerospace companies. NASA spent about $120 million on the project, with the agency and other customers stuffing the probe with numerous scientific instruments and experiments.

Intuitive Machines announced Monday that the probe’s mission will be cut a few days short, shutting down early Tuesday when the sun sets on the region.

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