Moon lander described as ‘alive and well’ day after white-knuckle lunar touchdown

By Thomson Reuters Feb 23, 2024 | 4:05 PM

(Reuters) – The moon lander dubbed Odysseus is “alive and well” a day after its white-knuckle touchdown as the first private spacecraft ever to reach the lunar surface, and the first from the United States since 1972, the company behind the vehicle, Intuitive Machines, said on Friday.

Flight controllers at the company’s mission operations center in Houston “are communicating and commanding he vehicle to download science data,” the company said in a statement posted on its website, the first update provided since Thursday’s landing.

Shares of Intuitive Machines jumped 21% on Friday, and the company’s stock was up 4.5% in after-hours trading.

The company said the spacecraft also was sending “good telemetry” and was charging its solar power cells properly.

“We continue to learn more” about the vehicle’s specific location in the south pole region of the moon, its “overall health” and its orientation on the surface, the company said.

The six-legged, uncrewed robot spacecraft reached the lunar surface on Thursday after a nail-biting final approach and descent in which a problem surfaced with the lander’s navigation system, requiring engineers on the ground to employ an untested work-around at the 11th hour.

It also took some time after an anticipated radio blackout to re-establish communications with the spacecraft and determine its fate some 239,000 miles (384,000 km) from Earth.

When contact was finally renewed, the signal was faint, confirming that the lander had touched down but leaving mission control immediately uncertain as to the precise condition and position of the vehicle, company officials said during a webcast of the event on Thursday evening.

The lander is carrying a suite of scientific experiments for NASA and several commercial customers designed to operate for seven days on solar energy before the sun sets over the polar landing site.

NASA and Houston-based Intuitive Machines planned to hold a news briefing later on Friday to give further updates on the status of the mission.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles;Editing by Diane Craft)