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Image taken by the Odysseus spacecraft while in orbit around the Moon

Intuitive machines

The Odysseus lander of intuitive machines has landed on the moon. It is the first time a private firm has landed a spacecraft on the lunar surface, a welcome achievement after a recent string of high-profile landing failures by other companies.

On February 14, aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, the Odysseus craft was launched for the flight, known as the IM-1 mission. It reached lunar orbit on February 21 before landing near the moon’s south pole on February 22.

The live feed from mission control was strained, as the planned landing time was missed due to no communication with the lander. Finally, several minutes after Odysseus landed, Tim Crane, mission director at Intuitive Machines’ mission control, said, “We’re picking up a signal — it’s faint, but it’s there.”

The signal indicates that the spacecraft has reached the moon, but the status of the spacecraft is still unknown. Nevertheless, the landing was successful. “I know it was a nail-biter but we’re on the surface,” said Intuitive Machines CEO Stephen Altimas. “Welcome to the moon.”

Before this landing, three other companies attempted to send landers to the Moon. SpaceIL’s Beresheet craft Launched in 2019 and ispace’s Hakuto-R mission Launched in 2022, but each of them crash-landed and was destroyed.

Astrobotic’s Peregrine Lander It didn’t even get that far after its January launch — a fuel leak forced its operators to return it to Earth to burn up in the atmosphere. With the success of IM-1, Intuitive Machines has joined an elite club – only the national space agencies of the Soviet Union, the United States, China, India and Japan have successfully Landed on the moon First

Now that it has landed safely, the second part of the IM-1 mission can begin. Odysseus carried six NASA payloads and six commercial payloads to the moon. Some of these, such as landing aids and cameras for taking landing photos, have already served their purpose. Only a few have managed to get to the moon – perhaps most notably artist Jeff Koons’ collection of 125 miniature sculptures. Others, including instruments to measure how the atmosphere around the moon affects its surface, now begin their missions.

The IM-1 mission is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, which awards government contracts to private companies aimed at expanding spaceflight capabilities through public-private partnerships. Three More lunar landings Planned by CLPS in 2024, one of the Intuitive Machines’ missions is to harvest water ice from the Moon’s south pole.