Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus spacecraft landed on the moon two days ago. The mission was not a smooth one.

But when controllers checked the data the next morning — just hours before the planned landing on Thursday — they discovered that one laser had not fired. It was then discovered that the safety switches on the two range finder lasers were still enabled when Odysseus went to space.

There was no way to flip the switches — they could not be bypassed through software — now that the spacecraft was more than 200,000 miles away.

“Moon Lander Is Lying on Its Side but Still Functional, Officials Say” by Kenneth Chang, Feb. 23, 2024, The New York Times.

Someone forgot to flip the switches

I have never launched a spaceship to the moon, so I have no room to judge. But when I read this story, I was reminded how, when things “break” in my workflow or a service is disrupted, it’s often due to human error. NASA astronauts and pilots know the power of checklists and procedures. They may seem mundane, but checklists can often be the difference between an effortless experience design and a facepalm.

Read the full story.

Dennis Cheatham

Associate Professor, Communication Design

Miami University

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