Odysseus overcomes challenges and lands safely on the Moon

  • Intuitive Machines has become the first commercial firm to land a spacecraft safely on the Moon.
  • The landing also marks the first by the US since 1972.
  • The Odysseus spacecraft will spend the next seven days conducting scientific observations and more.

Private spacefaring firm Intuitive Machines has made history this week by soft landing a spacecraft on the Moon. The firm became both the first private US company to land a piece of kit on the Moon safely and the first US Moon landing since 1972.

The Odysseus launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Texas and traveled for eight days to reach the Moon. The spacecraft is loaded with scientific equipment and now that it has landed, a clock has begun to countdown.

Over the next seven days, ground teams will use the scientific equipment aboard the lander to run observations and experiments.

While humans have become quite adept at landing spacecraft on the likes of Mars and the Moon, this landing by Intuitive Machines wasn’t without issues. According to Al Jazeera, the final descent of the spacecraft was fraught with problems. After discovering an issue with the navigation system, ground teams had to switch to an untested landing system.

Despite the problems, Odysseus landed safely on the Moon in the wee hours of Friday morning. You can watch the full broadcast of the landing in the video below.

“We can confirm, without a doubt, that our equipment is on the surface of the Moon and we are transmitting,” mission director Tim Crane said after the landing was confirmed.

Seven days of science isn’t much but this is due to where the spacecraft landed. Odysseus has landed near the Moon’s South Pole at Malpert A, a crater 69km wide. While this region of the celestial body is said to contain water ice and other minerals astronauts could leverage for a base in the future, the region is also shrouded in darkness. Given that most spacecraft require solar energy to operate, being ensconced in darkness makes that difficult.

Odysseus forms part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services and three more landings are planned for this programme this year as reported by the New Scientist.

Bill Nelson, administrator at NASA congratulated the private firm for making history.

“Today for the first time in more than a half century the US has returned to the Moon. Today for the first time in humanity, a commercial company, an American company, launched and led the voyage up there,” Nelson said.

While NASA itself intends to bring humans back to the Moon, those missions have been delayed.

Originally slated for 2025, the crewed Artemis III mission will now only take place in 2026. Given the dangers that astronauts could encounter between Earth and the Moon, we suspect NASA wants to avoid Apollo 13 levels of disaster en-route to and from the body.

Congratulations to the folks at Intuitive Machines for making history and furthering humanities ambitions of exploring the cosmos.


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