Private lunar landing mission cut short after landing sideways

The Odysseus lunar lander is expected to cut its mission short Tuesday after a botched landing left it on its side on the moon’s surface.

Intuitive Machines, the Houston-based aerospace firm that developed the craft, announced Monday that the probe would shut down Tuesday morning when the sun sets on the South Pole region of the moon, about two to three days earlier than planned.

Odysseus touched down near the moon’s south pole Thursday, becoming the first American lunar probe in more than 50 years. It is also the first-ever lunar landing by a private company.

Scientists are interested in the south pole since it may contain water ice reserves and mineral deposits. NASA plans to send manned missions to the region in the future.

Intuitive Machines counted NASA among its customers alongside other aerospace companies on the mission. NASA spent about $120 million on the project, with the agency and other customers stuffing the probe with numerous scientific instruments and experiments.

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

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