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Lunar lander Odysseus, still generating power on the moon, will be put to sleep soon

Odysseus, which touched down on the moon last week, has about three hours left before Intuitive Machines puts it "to sleep" in hopes that the lunar lander can be woken back up in a few weeks, company officials said Wednesday.

On Tuesday morning, the company said Odysseus – nicknamed Odie — had about 10-20 hours left, but the lunar lander continued to generate solar power on the moon on Wednesday. In several weeks, the sun will illuminate Odysseus' solar panel again, Intuitive Machines CEO and co-founder Steve Altemus said.

"I think what we're going to do is kind of tuck Odie in for the cold night of the moon and see if we can't wake him up here when we get the solar noon here in about three weeks," once the lunar night ends, Altemus said during a press conference.  

Hopes for waking Odysseus back up

Without illumination on Odysseus' solar panel, the lander will lose energy. It's already degrading in power, Altemus said Wednesday. The plan is to try and ping Odysseus with an antenna and wake it back up in a few weeks. 

"This mission was intended as a scout and a pilot mission to go land on the surface, collect the data and then the cold of night was going to take the lander, where it was going to sit there quietly for the rest of time," Altemus said. 

An artist's impression of Odysseus landing in the expected vertical orientation after touchdown. Intuitive Machines

There may be another opportunity in a few weeks to get additional data, Altemus said, adding, "So, no eulogies planned yet."

However, there's a chance the team may not be able to wake Odysseus back up, Tim Crain, Intuitive's chief technology officer, said. The batteries are the main limiter, because they don't respond well to cold. The company may not be able to receive power from the solar panel in a few weeks. It's also unclear how the flight computer and radio will manage in the cold. 

"We're in a position where, why not try? With no odds on it, let's see what happens," Altemus said. 

NASA's Sue Lederer said she has faith in Odysseus. "He's a scrappy little dude, so I have confidence in Odie at this point," she said. 

Odysseus survives, sends back data even after tipping over

The lunar lander had a challenging landing on the moon. Odysseus came down faster than expected and tipped over onto its side as it landed. 

It skidded and part of the landing gear broke off, Altemus said. Despite the difficult landing, Odysseus has been able to send back pictures and data. Data has come in from all of the payloads on Odysseus — it was equipped with six NASA instruments and another six commercial payloads.

This image provided by Intuitive Machines shows its Odysseus lunar lander over the near side of the moon following lunar orbit insertion, Feb. 21, 2024. Intuitive Machines via AP

Odysseus has sent back more than 15 megabytes of information, which is more than was expected, Lederer said. 

"We went from basically a cocktail straw of data coming back to a boba tea size straw of data coming back," Lederer said.

Altemus said he views it as a successful mission

"What we've done in the process of this mission is we've fundamentally changed the economics of landing on the moon," Altemus said. "We've kicked open the door for a robust thriving cislunar economy in the future."

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