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Friday, June 21, 2024

US Private Moon Lander Successfully Enters Lunar Orbit Prior to Landing Attempt

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HOUSTON — A lunar lander named Odysseus, constructed by Houston’s⁣ own Intuitive Machines, successfully entered the ⁣moon’s orbit on Wednesday. This marks a significant step towards ‌the first U.S. landing on our closest celestial body in over half a century, and the first ever by⁢ a privately-owned spacecraft.

The Nova-C lander, affectionately known as⁢ Odysseus, achieved a circular orbit ​57 miles above the moon’s surface. This was accomplished by firing its main rocket thruster for nearly seven⁤ minutes, as detailed in ⁢the company’s online statement.

Provided everything proceeds as planned, the robotic spacecraft is set ⁤to gradually lower its orbit within the next 24 ⁤hours. It is scheduled to touch down ⁢at crater Malapert A, located near the‌ moon’s south pole, at 3:49 p.m. on​ Thursday. The⁣ lander carries a variety of NASA science instruments and⁢ technology demonstrations.

According to Intuitive Machines, Odysseus is “in excellent health.” Throughout its lunar orbit, which is approximately 239,000 miles ⁤from Earth, mission controllers in Houston will keep ⁣a close eye on the spacecraft’s flight data and transmit images of the ​moon.

Odysseus was launched on Feb. 15, just six days ago, ⁣aboard a Falcon ‌9 rocket. This‍ rocket was constructed and launched by SpaceX, Elon Musk’s California-based company, from NASA’s ⁣Kennedy ​Space Center in ⁢Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Should the landing ‍be successful, the IM-1 mission will be the first controlled descent to the lunar⁢ surface by a U.S. spacecraft since Apollo 17. This‍ was NASA’s last crewed moon mission, which saw Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt⁢ land on the moon in 1972.

This would also be the first “soft landing” ⁣on the moon by a commercially⁣ manufactured and operated vehicle. It would also be the first ⁤under NASA’s Artemis lunar program, as ⁣the‌ U.S. competes to return astronauts to the moon before China lands its own crewed spacecraft ⁢there.

The IM-1 mission ⁤follows a setback experienced by‍ another company, Astrobotic Technology, whose lunar‌ lander ‌suffered a propulsion system leak ⁤en route ⁢to the‍ moon. This‌ occurred shortly after‍ being placed in orbit on Jan. 8 by a⁣ United‌ Launch Alliance Vulcan rocket on its maiden‍ flight.

The failure of Astrobotic’s Peregrine ⁣lander, which was also carrying NASA payloads to the moon, marked the third time a private company had failed to achieve a lunar touchdown. ⁣Previous unsuccessful attempts were made by⁤ companies from ‍Israel and Japan.

These incidents highlight the risks ⁣NASA faces as it increasingly relies on the ⁢commercial sector to achieve its ⁤spaceflight goals.

Despite being⁢ an ⁢Intuitive Machines mission, the IM-1 flight is carrying‍ six NASA payloads. These instruments are designed to gather data about​ the lunar‍ environment in preparation for NASA’s‌ planned first crewed Artemis mission to⁣ the moon later this decade.

Intuitive Machines was co-founded in‌ 2013 by Stephen ‌Altemus,‍ former deputy director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and ⁣now the ​company’s president ​and CEO.

NASA‌ announced last ‌month ‌that it was delaying​ its ⁣target date⁢ for a crewed Artemis moon landing from 2025 to late 2026, while‌ China has⁤ said it​ was‌ aiming for 2030.

Small landers like Nova-C are expected ⁣to reach the moon first, ‌carrying instruments to closely survey the lunar landscape, its resources, and potential hazards. Odysseus will focus on space weather interactions with the moon’s ‍surface, radio astronomy, precision landing technologies, and navigation.

So far, only spacecraft from five countries have‍ ever landed on the moon — the United⁣ States,‍ the former Soviet Union, China, ‌India, and, most ‌recently, ​Japan.

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Truth Media Network
Truth Media Network
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