The New Space Odyssey: ‘Odysseus,’ First Moon Landing Since 1972


Ariana Duckett

Copy Editor & Senior Staff Writer

The SpaceX rocket launch on Feb. 15 isn’t the first non-government company to launch a spacecraft out of Earth’s atmosphere, but it was the first to land on the moon since 1972. The ground-breaking take-off could even be heard on campus and in the surrounding Santa Barbara County.

The Odysseus touched the surface of the moon on Feb. 22. It had been aboard a SpaceX rocket, built by Intuitive Machines Inc., a Texas-based space exploration company founded in 2013. The company worked closely with NASA to secure funding — $77 million — as well as through their Lunar Payload Delivery Services, which NASA paid an additional $118 million to have equipment of their choosing delivered to the moon for them. Tools included a specialized laser, radio, camera, navigation technology and a propellant tank.

The Odysseus had a rocky start with malfunctioning equipment on board, requiring the use of NASA-provided tools that were, according to The New York Times, “intended to be experimental, not operational but … a very handy backup.” During that time, The Odysseus made an extra orbit around the moon, lasting for two hours while technicians worked to solve the issue. The moon lander also touched the ground sideways, causing additional concern of its success due to its solar powers that required but did not receive direct sunlight to operate.

Intuitive Machine’s website features daily updates of the spacecraft’s journey — they refer to the moon lander as the Odie. They published the first photos of Earth from The Odysseus on Feb. 16, as well as a fisheye-lens-esque image of the moon to confirm it was close to reaching the ground on Feb. 21. Its landing site was also further south than any other spacecraft landing, on a crater named Malapert A, and allowed the Odysseus to transmit images of the moon’s south pole region. Sculptures by artist Jeff Koons made the trip to the moon as well, including a box of 125 miniature steel models of the moon. His sculptures have now become the first permitted pieces of artwork on the moon. He also made larger models of the moon sculptures for collectors, as well as an NFT that, according to The New York Times, shows “the installation of the lunar landing.”

No updates have been released from Intuitive Machines’s website since Feb. 29, when they reported that the Odysseus’s “power was depleted.” The spacecraft has been put on a planned shutdown mode, during which the sun’s light will be unable to power its solar panels. In several weeks, the machine could receive enough power to power on, but due to the tilt of the solar panels, and the moon’s lowest temperatures reaching around -250 degrees Fahrenheit, chances of survival are unknown.

A final image from the moon lander was transmitted to flight controllers on Feb. 29, though it had been taken Feb. 22, which depicts a desolate, gray moonscape with our glowing Earth in the distance.

After paving the way for commercial space exploration, Intuitive Machines has since reported that the spacecraft does not have enough power to fly home, but that that was not the purpose of the mission anyway. Rather, breaking new grounds and collecting any and all available data was the main focus. On Apr. 2, according to the company’s website, NASA has awarded them “$30 million as a prime contractor to complete a Lunar Terrain Vehicle Services Feasibility Assessment.” The funding will allow for a future project to build and bring a Lunar Terrain Vehicle on the moon. NASA’s faith in Intuitive Machines following their successful mission marks a turning point in non-governmental space exploration and confirms its feasibility.


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