Thursday, April 25

Moon Lander is lying on its side but still functional, officials say

A day after its historic landing, the first private spacecraft on the Moon is in good condition but has been knocked over, the company that built it reported Friday.

The spacecraft, named Odysseus, landed in the Moon’s south pole region Thursday evening, the first U.S. vehicle to soft-land on the Moon since Apollo 17 in 1972.

Initially, Intuitive Machines, which built Odysseus, said the craft landed vertically, but later analysis of the data showed it came to rest at an angle. This means the spacecraft’s antennas are not pointed toward Earth, limiting the amount of data that can be sent in either direction.

Ulysses has not yet been able to send back any photos since his landing. Intuitive engineers are still trying to extract more information from the spacecraft.

“The vehicle is stable near or at our planned landing site,” Steve Altemus, chief executive of Intuitive Machines, said Friday at a NASA news conference. “We have communications with the lander.”

He added: “It’s phenomenal to start with.”

But he and Tim Crain, the chief technology officer, also described unforeseen problems that nearly doomed the mission. The landing was saved by chance and frantic work, they said.

This developing story will be updated.