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IM-1: Mixed Success for the United States’ Return to the Moon

Published on 28 March 2024

After six days, the IM-1 lunar mission is coming to an end. NASA and Intuitive Machines are calling it a success. Still, Odysseus landed on its side on the moon and not everything worked out as planned. They plan to try to wake it up after the lunar night.

IM-1: Mixed Success for the United States’ Return to the Moon

It ran for more than six days on the Moon, but Odysseus is going to be put into hibernation. While NASA and the people in charge of Intuitive Machines are congratulating themselves on this success, not everything worked as planned and the failures during the moon landing have raised questions. Still, most of NASA’s instruments collected data that will be analysed. On March 23, 2024, Intuitive Machines attempted to wake up “Odie” but the Nova-C lander gave no further sign of life.

After several trials, Intuitive Machines managed to obtain an image of Odysseus on the surface of the Moon. This shot helped us understand the position it is in.

© Intuitive Machines

The Return of the United States to the Moon

Both NASA and Intuitive Machines Call it a Huge Success

On February 23, 2024, Odysseus, the NOVA-C lander created by Intuitive Machines, landed on the Moon. This is the first time that a private company has achieved this feat. This historic moon landing marked the return of the United States, more than fifty years after Apollo 17. Indeed, the spacecraft was carrying six NASA instruments, as part of the CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) program. “We had very high-level mission goals to land softly on the surface of the Moon and return scientific data to our customers,” said Steve Altemus, CEO of Intuitive Machines, at the February 28, 2024 press conference. “Both of those goals have been met, so in our opinion, it’s an unqualified success.” Earlier, Bill Nelson hailed the success of this mission. “Odysseus is a success from NASA’s point of view,” the NASA administrator said. The U.S. space agency says it has received data from five of the onboard instruments. The sixth, a laser reflector, is expected to be tested in the coming months.

A Failed Landing

Several Failures on Landing on the Surface Jeopardized the Mission

It was mainly during the landing that the problems arose. While orbiting the Moon, Intuitive Machines’ engineers realised that their telemetry instruments were unusable. So they configured the craft to use NASA’s lidar (NDL), which was onboard as payload. This back-up procedure had been considered, but not all of the data could be used. In particular, altimetric data was lacking. However, Odysseus was about to land on the moon 1.5 km from the place initially planned and at a higher altitude. As a result, the ship hit the ground much more forcefully than expected. One of the six landing legs broke during the impact, as can be seen in one of the latest images released by Intuitive Machines. “We arrived standing with the engine on for a while. Then, as it stopped, the vehicle rolled over slightly.” Early indications were that the ship might be resting on a rock. But, as the landing took place on a 12° slope, Odysseus ended up lying at an angle of about 30° to the surface. Tim Crain, chief technology officer at Intuitive Machines, said that if the laser rangefinders had worked as planned, “we would have had a successful landing.”

When it came time to touch down on the Moon, the altimeter data was not good, Odysseus was going too fast and a landing leg broke. We also see the ejecta of lunar regolith as the spacecraft reached the ground.
© Intuitive Machines 


The EagleCam that was supposed to be dropped before Odysseus landed was finally deployed on February 28. It landed 4m away, but didn’t work.

© Intuitive Machines

The Failure of EagleCam

This Instrument, which was Supposed to Film the Last Seconds of Odysseus’ Arrival, Did Not Work

It was supposed to be the main event of the NOVA-C’s arrival on the Moon. This device, which was not part of NASA’s payload but was created and provided by the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, was supposed to be ejected to film Intuitive Machines. It first of all indicated that it had indeed been released. Then, at the first press conference on 23 February, Steve Altemus explained that this was not yet the case but that he hoped to carry out this operation and obtain an image of Odysseus on the surface of the Moon. It was finally deployed on 28 February to land 4m away. “Whether it’s in the camera or in the Wi-Fi signal sent to the lander, something may be not working properly,” Altemus explained.

“Odie” Didn’t Wake Up

NOVA-C was Put into Hibernation in the Hope of Waking It Up, Unsuccessfully

After 144 hours of operation, i.e. nearly six days, Odysseus was almost out of battery and its only illuminated solar panel, out of reach of the Sun. “Odie,” as it is nicknamed, has been put into hibernation. But Intuitive Machines planned to wake it up in the following weeks. To do this, the on-board electronics and batteries would have to withstand the harsh lunar night, which can drop below -180°. So far, all attempts to revive it have failed, but SLIM’s recent feat could fuel Intuitive Machines’ hopes. “Why not give it a try?” Altemus said. “Let’s see what happens.”

Updated March 25, 2024

After several days of hibernation, Intuitive Machines tried  to get back in touch with Odysseus on March 20. The engineers wanted to wait until the solar panels were exposed enough to recharge the lander’s power system and allow it to turn its radio back on. On March 23 at 4:30 p.m. CEST, flight controllers announced the loss of Odysseus. “Its electrical system won’t make another call home. This confirms that Odie is gone for good after cementing its legacy in history as the first commercial lunar lander to land on the Moon,” Intuitive Machines said on its X account (formerly Twitter).


After several weeks of hibernation, the small Japanese robot SLIM has woken up and transmitted new images of the Moon’s surface. It achieved the feat of surviving the lunar night.



Astrobotic is responsible for sending the VIPER rover to the Moon’s South Pole using its Griffin lander.


More Upcoming Missions

New Missions to the Moon are Planned in the Coming Months

As part of the CLPS, the program of commercial contracts between NASA and private companies

  • Intuitive Machines isn’t done with moon landings. Even before the success of IM-1, they were planning two more missions to the Moon by the end of the year. IM-2 is expected to carry a drill rig and mass spectrometer to the Moon’s South Pole. IM-3 is to install 92 kg of instruments at the Reinner Gamma site in the Ocean of Storms and a laser reflector from the European Space Agency (ESA).
  • Astrobotic was scheduled to send the Griffin lander to the Moon in November 2024. In particular, it will land the VIPER rover responsible for analysing the presence of water on the Moon on the lunar surface. However, Peregrine’s recent failure could jeopardise that timetable.

In addition, China is continuing its lunar program. The next step will be a sample return mission. Chang’e 6 will be responsible for bringing back rocks from the far side of the Moon, which would be a first.

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