First US Moon lander in 50 years finally gives up on lunar surface

The first US spacecraft to land on the Moon in 50 years has finally given up, and is no longer speaking to its engineers.

The Odysseus lander, made by private company Intuitive Machines, landed on the Moon on 22 February. But that landing went slightly awry, and it broke a leg and fell onto its side.

That left it unable to gather power as expected, and led to difficulties communicating with the Earth. Nonetheless, Odysseus continued to communicate with controllers for longer than expected.

On Thursday, however, the spacecraft went silent. It sent one last photo and switched into its standby mode.

But it might not be the end. The standby mode was triggered in the hope that Odysseus is able to come back online in a few weeks, if it is able to survive the cold of the lunar night.

Intuitive Machines spokesman Josh Marshall said these final steps drained the lander’s batteries and put Odysseus “down for a long nap.”

“Good night, Odie. We hope to hear from you again,” the company said via X, formerly Twitter.

The lander was originally intended to last about a week at the moon.

Houston-based Intuitive Machines became the first private business to land a spacecraft on the moon without crashing when Odysseus touched down Feb. 22. Only five countries had achieved that since the 1960s, including Japan, which made a sideways landing last month.

Odysseus carried six experiments for Nasa, which paid $118 million for the ride. The first company to take part in Nasa’s program for commercial lunar deliveries never made it to the moon; its lander came crashing back to Earth in January.

Nasa views these private landers as scouts that will pave the way for astronauts due to arrive in another few years.

Until Odysseus, the last U.S. moon landing was by Apollo 17's Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt in 1972.

Additional reporting by agencies