While the Odysseus moon lander performed nearly flawlessly for almost the entirety of its historic, seven-day journey to the moon, culminating in a relatively soft landing on Thursday, the 14-foot lander likely caught a rock or other obstruction as it was touching down and is believed to be resting on its side.

But the craft is fully powered, and the CEO and chief technology officer from Intuitive Machines, the Houston-based space company that developed the lander, say most, if not all, of the 12 science and experimental payloads that it carried should be functional.

On Thursday, Intuitive Machines became the first private space company to deliver a spacecraft to the moon and execute a controlled landing on the surface. It is the first U.S. craft to return to the lunar surface since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

Odysseus is reported to be within 2 to 3 kilometers of its landing target and is now resting near the Malapert A crater in the moon’s south polar region. The south pole is of particular interest to NASA as an area that has been identified as the most likely to hold frozen reserves of water, an essential element and potential source from which oxygen and hydrogen could be extracted for future missions.

During a press conference hosted by NASA on Friday, Intuitive Machines CEO and co-founder Steve Altemus said the vehicle is stable and has a communication link with its Earth-based control center.

How did Odysseus end up on its side?

Using a small model of the Odysseus lander, Altemus demonstrated what he and his team believe happened Thursday, showing the lander in a vertical position very near the moon’s surface and coming down at a rate of about 2 mph before one of its six legs caught a surface obstruction, causing it to tip over on its side.

Intuitive Machines chief technology officer Tim Cairns said data that has been transmitted back to control technicians indicates that “we were in stable control and vertical at the time we touched down.”

Altemus said the spacecraft is being held in a nearly horizontal position by a rock or slope and the payloads, all of which are attached to the exterior of the lander, should still be able to perform as hoped, albeit if stable communications can be established. That task has been complicated due to how Odysseus’ onboard antennas are pointing with the ship on its side.

Altemus said images are expected sometime this weekend from the spacecraft’s onboard cameras that should shed further light on the condition of the lander and the terrain in which it came to rest.

Altemus and Cairns also discussed a number of unexpected issues that were encountered ahead of the landing attempt, including the failure of critical laser range-finding instruments that were overcome through software reconfigurations and the use of some NASA technology that was aboard for testing, but not intended to be used as in-flight instruments.

Intuitive Machines officials said dozens of engineers and technicians helped troubleshoot and solve the issues before Odysseus left its orbital path around the moon for descent and landing on the surface, all of which was performed by on-board autonomous systems.

“It’s just an incredibly performing machine,” Altemus said. “We persevered up to the last moment to get the soft touchdown.”

Odysseus launched on Feb. 15 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, traveling 620,000 miles to the moon in six days before it entered lunar orbit on Wednesday.

The spacecraft is carrying a dozen different payloads, half of which are for NASA, which subsidized the mission with $118 million from a program aiming to foster private sector spacecraft and space-related development.

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What happened to the Peregrine lander?

Last month, another privately developed lunar lander, Astrobotic Technology’s Peregrine lander, also supported under NASA’s commercial payload program, saw a successful launch aboard the United Launch Alliance’s brand new Vulcan rocket, but ran into trouble shortly after separation. That mission, which also carried a variety of experiments and commercial payloads, failed after a fuel leak rendered the craft unable to complete its journey.

Besides Astrobotic’s attempt with Peregrine, two other private moon landing tries, one each by companies from Israel and Japan, have met with failure, a factor not lost on Intuitive Machines’ Altemus.

“We are keenly aware of the immense challenges that lie ahead,” Altemus said in a press statement after Odysseus’ launch earlier this month. “However, it is precisely in facing these challenges head-on that we recognize the magnitude of the opportunity before us: to softly return the United States to the surface of the moon for the first time in 52 years.”

NASA says commercial deliveries by companies participating in the Commercial Payload Services program, which has $2.6 billion in funding through 2028, will perform science experiments, test technologies and demonstrate capabilities to help the U.S. space agency explore the moon as it prepares for human missions planned as part of its multiphase Artemis program.

When will astronauts return to the moon?

In a move foreshadowed by federal auditors’ findings late last year, NASA announced last month it was pushing out next steps in its multiphase Artemis moonshot program with two crewed mission launch dates, one aiming to orbit the moon and the other hoping to put astronauts on the lunar surface, each bumped out by one year.

NASA officials said further work to ensure mission safety is driving the rescheduling, as well as delays in third-party programs that are developing new spacesuits, orbital refueling systems and lunar landing spacecraft.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced the Artemis II mission, slated to carry astronauts on a journey that will include orbiting the moon, is now scheduled for launch in September 2025. The Artemis III mission, which will return astronauts to the surface of the moon for the first time in over 50 years, now has a September 2026 target date.

Nelson noted the success of the Artemis I mission in late 2022 that included the new, massive Space Launch System rocket and a 25-day journey for the unmanned Orion crew capsule. It splashed down in the Pacific on Dec. 14 that year after traveling nearly 1.4 million miles.

Artemis I was just the first step in a program aiming to not just put astronauts back on the moon, but to establish a base station there and develop systems to use the earth’s sole satellite as a launch site for, ultimately, sending human explorers to Mars.