Odysseus Moon Lander’s Remaining Battery Life: Company Indicates 10-20 Hours

Odysseus, the pioneering U.S. spacecraft to grace the lunar surface since 1972, now faces a dwindling battery life of approximately 10 to 20 hours, as revealed by diligent flight controllers maintaining contact with the robotic lander. Operating from Texas, Intuitive Machines disclosed on Tuesday that its team remains in communication with the Odysseus lander, which earlier in the day transmitted invaluable payload science data and captivating imagery. With a contract worth $118 million from NASA, Intuitive Machines undertook the construction and operation of the spacecraft, fulfilling the space agency’s scientific objectives alongside various commercial interests.

Despite a successful landing on Friday, Odysseus encountered a premature challenge to its projected operational span of seven to ten days due to an off-kilter touchdown. Efforts to ascertain the exact remaining battery life of the lander are underway, as indicated by Intuitive Machines.

The news prompted a 16% decline in the company’s shares on Tuesday, though a partial recovery ensued following assurances of continued communication with the lander. Nevertheless, the stock’s recent gains were largely eroded.

The extent of research data and imagery yet to be gathered due to Odysseus’ curtailed lunar tenure remains uncertain, casting a shadow over the scientific mission.

Launched on February 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center aboard a Falcon 9 rocket courtesy of SpaceX, the Nova-C-class lander achieved lunar orbit six days later. On February 22, Odysseus executed its final descent, landing near its intended target in the moon’s southern polar region, notwithstanding a last-minute navigational hiccup.

Initial signals from the craft were fainter than expected, signaling a successful landing but raising concerns. Engineers later determined that Odysseus had snagged one of its landing legs on the rugged lunar terrain, causing it to tip over and rest horizontally, potentially propped by a rocky surface. This orientation obstructed two communication antennae and limited solar panel exposure, impeding battery recharge.

Despite setbacks, only one of NASA’s experiments appeared physically compromised, and Intuitive Machines affirmed its ability to fulfill commercial payload requirements.

With calculations predicting a loss of sunlight to its solar panels by Tuesday morning, Odysseus was expected to go silent, marking the end of its operational phase.

Nevertheless, Odysseus achieved several milestones, becoming the first U.S. spacecraft to touch down on the moon since the Apollo missions and the inaugural lunar landing by a commercially produced and operated vehicle, under NASA’s Artemis program. However, its journey underscored the risks inherent in NASA’s reliance on smaller, less seasoned private enterprises compared to the Apollo era.

This incident echoes similar setbacks, including Astrobotic Technology’s propulsion leak and JAXA’s SLIM lander’s power loss due to a tipping incident. Notably, JAXA recently reported a surprising revival of its lander after enduring a lunar night, offering a glimmer of hope amidst the challenges of lunar exploration.

Read Also – Lakeside High School Student Dies. What happened?