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Private Lunar Lander Hits Unexpected Issues During White-Knuckles Descent

Update: The lander has successfully touched down on the lunar surface.

Final Countdown

Things were looking promising as Intuitive Machines' NASA-sponsored lunar lander Odysseus prepared for its final approach and touchdown on the Moon this week.

In the final hour as the landing approaches, though, there are signs that things aren't going according to plan as the spacecraft hits unexpected issues. The first hint, according to CNN, came on the company's livestream as a spokesperson announced that the descent wouldn't go according to plan as it skipped its 10-second "deorbit insertion" burn.

"This is a dynamic situation," said NASA communication manager Gary Jordan. "We'll update you later in the broadcast."

Impact Statement

More unexpected drama became apparent when the company revealed that there was a problem with the Odysseus lander's navigation system. Instead of using the equipment it had planned on, it'll be forced to rely on an experimental NASA payload that had been intended as a proof of concept, but will now be taking center stage.

"Intuitive Machines made the decision to reassign the primary navigation sensors from Odysseus... to use the sensors on NASA's Navigation Doppler Lidar," the company said, per CNN.

NASA head Bill Nelson weighed in as well.

"It’s white-knuckle time," he told CNN's Jake Tapper. "Their ability to land is not with the radar, but with light pulses called Lidar — and it is on the blink."

Stake Dinner

The stakes couldn't be higher. If the lander touches down successfully, it'll be the first commercial spacecraft ever to do so — and the first American craft to land on the Moon since Apollo 17 in 1972.

It may well succeed. But as some observers are pointing out, its namesake — the Greek mythological hero known for his incredibly arduous journey home — might not be entirely auspicious.

"Good luck to the lunar lander but if I were building something to make a direct trip without any issues I would not name it Odysseus," quipped Defector editor Barry Petchesky.

More on the Moon: SpaceX Launches Private Moon Lander