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Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus makes first U.S. lunar landing in 50 years

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The Odysseus lunar lander loaded on high of a SpaceX robotic previous to launch. | Credit score: SpaceX

For the primary time in 50 years, the U.S. returned to the lunar floor. Whereas Odysseus, Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lunar lander, was uncrewed, I’m sufficiently old to recollect the primary crewed moon touchdown of Apollo 11 again in July 1969. Right this moment’s touchdown may very well be important for a complete new era of U.S. area flight followers.

Odysseus, nicknamed “Odie,” touched down on the lunar floor at 6:23 p.m. ET (23:23 GMT) and achieved a milestone as the primary industrial lunar lander following NASA’s new directive to contract with personal corporations to engineer, manufacture, and launch spacecraft.

This mission is a part of the Business Lunar Payload Companies, or CLIPS initiative. It’s a precursor to the upcoming Artemis program, whose objective is to ship people again to the moon by late 2026.

“Right this moment is a day that exhibits the ability and promise of NASA’s industrial partnerships,” acknowledged Invoice Nelson, NASA administrator. “Congratulations to everybody concerned on this nice and daring quest.”

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Lunar touchdown was delayed

The touchdown was delayed as flight controllers selected to make an extra orbit earlier than beginning the IM-1 Mission touchdown sequence. This delayed the touchdown by about two hours from its unique estimated time. A communications blackout over the 239,000 mi. (384,000 km) between the moon and Earth led to uncertainty about Odie’s touchdown as its distance closed to tens of meters.

For these watching the livestream of mission management, 10 anxious minutes handed earlier than the mission command introduced that a sign had been obtained from the lander and that it was safely close to the Malapert A crater on the lunar floor.

“I do know this was a nail-biter, however we’re on the floor, and we’re transmitting,” mentioned Steve Altemus, CEO of Intuitive Machines. “Welcome to the moon.”

The Houston-based firm‘s lander is carrying six devices for scientific tools and know-how demonstrations for NASA and a number of other industrial prospects. Odysseus, the product of Intuitive Machine’s $118 million contract with NASA, was launched per week in the past.

It’s meant to run on solar energy for seven days earlier than the lunar night time begins over the polar touchdown spot. It will finish the mission, because the lander is not going to survive the lunar night time, which lasts roughly 14 Earth days.

crowd of Intutive Machines employees cheer success.

Intuitive Machines workers cheered as soon as Odie’s touchdown success was confirmed. | Credit score: NASA

Autonomous spaceflight is tough

Odie’s success adopted the latest failure of the Peregrine lunar lander from Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic to achieve orbit a month earlier. Had it succeeded, Peregrine would have been the primary industrial lander to achieve the moon. Nevertheless, a propulsion system failure doomed that lander to a fiery demise in Earth’s environment.

A number of different nations have succeeded in reaching the lunar floor over the previous couple of years, together with the Vikram lander from India, a part of the Chandrayaan-3 mission.

The January 2024 SLIM mission from Japan reached the lunar floor, however the lander bounced laborious and ended up on its facet on the lunar floor. The Chang’e 4 mission from China was the final profitable lunar touchdown in 2019 and delivered the Yutu-2 rover onto the lunar floor.

The Russian Luna-25 mission failed in October 2023 on account of a software program glitch.

NASA’s final profitable planetary touchdown mission was the Mars Perseverance rover, which landed within the Jezero crater on Mars in Feb. 18, 2021. It launched the long-lived Ingenuity helicopter.

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