Private-sector moon mission ending early

Private-sector moon mission ending early

Shares of US lander builder Intuitive Machines slump after craft tips over

Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lunar lander captures a wide field of view image of the Schomberger crater on the Moon. (Photo: Intuitive Machines via Reuters)
Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lunar lander captures a wide field of view image of the Schomberger crater on the Moon. (Photo: Intuitive Machines via Reuters)

Shares of Intuitive Machines slumped 21% on Tuesday after the US space exploration company’s lunar mission neared a premature end after a sideways touchdown hindered communications and solar charging capability of its moon lander Odysseus.

If the premarket losses hold, it would wipe out nearly all the gains Intuitive Machines from last week after the first US touchdown on the lunar surface since 1972 and the first ever by the private sector.

The stock fell 35% on Monday, its worst drop in about a year, after the company warned that communications with Odysseus were expected to cease on Tuesday, just five days after it landed some 300 kilometres from the moon’s south pole.

“The reaction to the stock … that’s a bit of an overreaction by the market,” said Cantor Fitzgerald senior analyst Andres Sheppard, given that Intuitive has collected more than 95% of its target revenue of $130 million from the mission.

Only about 18% of Intuitive Machines’ outstanding shares are available to trade, according to LSEG data, making the stock that went public last year prone to high levels of volatility.

Intuitive said last Friday that Odysseus, which is carrying payloads for its main customer, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), would have enough power to operate for nine to 10 days under a “best-case scenario”.

The company initially said the vehicle had landed upright, an incorrect belief it subsequently said was due to faulty data.

The company said it continues to download data from the lander, which still has “quite a bit of operational capability”, including the ability to charge.

It is not clear yet as to how much scientific data might be lost due to the shortened length of the mission.

Some analysts said they see no impact of the issues faced over the past few days on the company’s next two missions and payloads scheduled later this year.

Intuitive has plans to use a Nova C lander, the same class as Odysseus, for further missions. Its next mission, the IM-2, is scheduled for launch later this year and will carry research tools to drill ice from below the moon’s surface.

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