A lot happens before ideas become solutions.

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Our Ruminations blog will bring you insights into how we got here and some of the things we consider when trying to help you run your business. We hope it gives you a better understanding of how we strive to better serve your needs.

Quite The Odyssey

When almost everything goes right

Touch Down

Last week Odysseus, the lunar lander from Intuitive Machines, was the first privately built vehicle to soft-land on the Moon. And the first American lander in over 50 years. Intuitive Machines is calling it a "successful landing" even though its IM-1 lander ended up on its side when everything was said and done.

I'm not minimizing the accomplishment of landing on the moon safely. Previous attempts by Russia, Israel, and India have all crashed. Chandrayaan-3, India's most recent effort, landed safely last August. The lander even took a short stroll. Unfortunately for Chandrayaan-3, it did not wake from a scheduled sleep mode.

We here at ElixWare suspect that these unsuccessful missions eventually ended up as snacks for moon monsters, with their wreckage in the belly of a glerk.

Here's a complete list of what has crashed on the moon for those of you who are curious.

Landing Blind

What makes Odysseus's non-crash landing even more impressive is that its range finders were inoperable. Intuitive Machines discovered this serious problem a couple of hours before Odysseus was due to attempt to land on the Moon. This resulted in a remarkable improvised maneuver utilizing the telescopes from the NASA NDL payload to try to determine their actual altitude during descent. It was this effort that saved the spacecraft.

The range finder issue was caused by the failure to re-install a pencil-sized pin and a wire harness before liftoff. These enabled the altimeter lasers to be turned on and off. This hardware was designed to be removed to prevent the lasers from engaging while Odysseus was being handled on the ground. Odysseus' downward-facing camera also malfunctioned during the descent, leaving the IM-1 team blind during the most important part of the flight.

Odysseus is only able to transmit limited signals due to its antennae not pointing where expected. Fortunately, the Murriyang Parkes radio telescope in Australia is able to pick up the lander's transmissions. Despite the communication problems, NASA was able to get some data from its six science payloads onboard. Intuitive Machines' other customers had mixed results.

The New Ithaca

It's easy to armchair astronaut this mission and call it a failure for ending up on its side. But when looking at everything that Intuitive Machines did it's hard to think of it as anything but a success. The last-minute heroics Macgyvering the NDL payload telescopes is a testament to their abilities and commitment to this mission.

Odysseus sent back a handful of photos from its four cameras. A few postcard shots memorializing how close it came to what we were all hoping it would achieve.

Update: On 02/29/2024, just seven days after its acrobatic landing, the IM-1 lander lost power and joined the other lunar landers in the Moon's collection of sentimental keepsakes. Before powering down, Odysseus sent its final image from the moon.

Sleep well, Odie. Sleep well.

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We are a small team with a lot of experience, specializing in software development, design, and workflow, process & project management. We are fiercely dedicated to helping you do what you do best — run your business — without getting bogged down in the mountains of paper and hours of screen time required to do it. We are equally dedicated to protecting your privacy and your data. Learn more about our privacy policy.