The Odysseus spacecraft is set to launch to the moon on February 14.


American company Intuitive Machines will soon try to become the first private firm to land a spacecraft on the moon. Three previous attempts by other companies have failed, highlighting the treacherous path ahead for Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander.

The spacecraft, named Odysseus, is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on February 14. It will travel atop the Falcon 9 rocket developed by SpaceX. If the mission, called IM-1, goes well, Odysseus should land near the moon’s south pole on February 22.

The goal of the IM-1 mission, in addition to proving that a private company could land on the moon, is to carry six NASA payloads and five commercial payloads to the lunar surface. NASA’s instruments include tools to study how the landing itself occurs. Piles of moon dustSeveral instruments to help the craft land safely and to measure radio waves and how they affect the lunar surface. Commercial payloads include a camera that will be dropped to take pictures of the landing before the lander touches down, 125 miniature sculptures by artist Jeff Koons and a chip designed to establish a human data repository on the moon. .

IM-1 is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, which awards government contracts to private companies with the goal of accelerating exploration and developing the lunar economy. This is the second CLPS mission – the first, Astrobotic’s Peregrine Landersuffered a fuel leak shortly after its January launch that prevented it from reaching the Moon.

Two other attempts to land on the moon have been made by private companies. SpaceIL’s Beresheet craft And ispace’s Hakuto-R But both crash-landed and were destroyed. If Odysseus succeeds where the others have failed, Intuitive Machines’ next step is to send another Nova-C lander, equipped with a drill to harvest subsurface ice, to the moon’s south pole. The mission is planned for March 2024.