The batteries on Odysseus, the hero private Moon lander, have run out

'Farewell' snap revealed by Intuitive Machines amid hope solar-powered craft may one day spring to life again

With it battery depleted and the lunar night approaching, the private-built Moon lander Odysseus has shut down quite possibly for good.

There's a possibility the solar-powered lander, nicknamed Odie by its engineers, could come to life again if it gets enough sunlight come lunar daybreak, though chances are slim. The probe was able to beam back, as its operators put it, a "farewell" snap from the surface, showing the Sun and Earth up above.

Created by Texas-based Intuitive Machines, Odysseus arrived at the lunar South Pole on February 22 having lifted off on February 15 atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a collection of private payloads and NASA instruments. Those payloads are listed here, and range from an experimental device that uses radio waves to measure how much propellant is left in a tank, to an NFT art project.

Odie was the first American craft to land on the Moon since the 1972 Apollo 17 mission. It was also hailed by many as the first-ever private spacecraft to touch down softly on Earth's natural satellite.

Handout image of Odysseus lander on the Moon taking a pic of the Sun and the Earth

Odysseus snaps and transmits home this photo from Moon, with the Sun and Earth visible in the void ... Source: Intuitive Machines. Click to enlarge

Soft lunar landings are notoriously difficult; just ask Japan's ispace. It's tricky to get a spacecraft to gently touchdown on the surface and remain intact. Although Intuitive managed to get Odysseus onto the Moon, it came down too fast and smashed at least one of its six legs in the process, CEO and co-founder Steve Altemus said in a press briefing. 

As a result, Odysseus tipped over and fell, and is stuck on its side on the Moon. Mission control established communications with the lander to download scientific data it had collected, but believes it won't be able to operate for the seven to ten days as hoped. Although all of its instruments appear to be working, Odysseus is in a less than ideal condition and drained its batteries, leading to Thursday's shut down.

"Before its power was depleted, Odysseus completed a fitting farewell transmission," Intuitive Machines said in a statement on Xitter and shared the latest image it snapped, taken the day it landed.

"Goodnight, Odie. We hope to hear from you again," the team added, referring to the fact that the craft may wake up if its solar arrays manage to receive enough sunlight to power back on.

Right now, the spacecraft will have to hunker down as lunar night falls onto the Moon. During this period, Earth's natural satellite is in a position in its orbit where its South Pole isn't illuminated by the Sun and stays dark for two weeks. Despite having to cut its mission short, Intuitive Machines is still keen to herald it all as a success.

"Spaceflight's unique challenges are conquered on Earth but mastered in space. Our now proven robust lunar program, a national asset, feeds directly into our second and third missions. This success drives our relentless pursuit of performance excellence to benefit the entire industry," Altemus said in a statement this week. 

He pointed out Odysseus had managed to pull off its soft-landing and that all of its instruments remained functional. Its proprietary liquid methane and liquid oxygen propulsion system worked to get the lander to the Moon in a position further south than any other spacecraft before. 

Intuitive Machines may get lucky. Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency managed to reestablish communications with its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon probe after all, despite it landing on its side, preventing its solar panels from getting as much light. That spacecraft, however, still had a little bit of juice in it before it was powered down, unlike Odysseus, mind you. ®

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