US private moon lander Odysseus makes historic lunar landing

An US private moon lander named Odysseus has landed near the lunar south pole on Thursday, February 22, 2024, at 6:23 p.m. EST (23:23 UTC).

Immediately after landing, the lander was not sending any signals so it could not be contacted.

However, after an hour of tense moments, the mission control team of Intuitive Machines confirmed that Odysseus was safe and softly landed on the lunar surface.

It has landed near the Malapert A crater in the South Pole region. This landing site is about 300 km from the lunar south pole. It is a relatively flat area within the heavily cratered lunar South Pole region.

A Houston-based US private company, Intuitive Machines, owns the Odysseus moon lander. This mission is named Intuitive Machines One (IM-1) as it is their first moon landing mission.

The company, Intuitive Machines has made history as their Odysseus moon lander becomes the first private spacecraft to land on the lunar surface successfully.

Not only that, it’s the first moon landing by the US since the crewed Apollo 17 mission in 1972. 

Artist's Illustration of Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C class lunar lander, called Odysseus
Artist’s illustration of Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C class lunar lander, called Odysseus. (Image credit: Intuitive Machines)

The Odysseus lander weighs 675 kilograms and stands 4.3 meters tall. It is named after the Greek hero portrayed in Homer’s Iliad.

Odysseus moon lander captured a selfie with the moon after entering the lunar orbit on February 21
Odysseus moon lander captured a selfie with the moon after entering the lunar orbit on February 21. (Image credit: Intuitive Machines)

On February 21, 2024, the lander was successfully inserted into lunar orbit.

The IM-1 mission was launched on Thursday, February 15, 2024, on a Falcon 9 rocket of SpaceX.

IM-1 mission is a part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative

Intuitive Machines One (IM-1) mission is under NASA’s CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative.

Actually, NASA is wanting to build a permanent crewed base on the lunar south pole region through its Artemis program in the late 2020s, where water ice has been found within the shadowed craters.

Before sending astronauts to the moon, NASA awarded contracts to several US companies to carry scientific instruments through their robotic spacecraft, and NASA named it a CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative. NASA has allocated a total of $2.6 billion for the CLPS initiatives.

The Odysseus lander of the IM-1 mission is carrying six scientific instruments (payloads) of NASA. These instruments will prepare NASA for future human exploration of the moon under the Artemis program.

However, the first mission under NASA’s CLPS initiative failed, and IM-1 is the second mission under CLPS.

Related article: Know about the failure of first lunar mission under NASA’s CLPS initiative 

NASA is desperate to build a crewed moon base before China, as China also aims to build a permanent scientific laboratory at the lunar south pole by the early 2030s.

Currently, China’s moon missions are enviable, which is drawing the eyes of the US. Chang’e 6 will be China’s next robotic lunar exploration mission, which will be launched in the first half of 2024. Chang’e 6 spacecraft will collect samples from the far side of the moon and bring them back to earth.

Related article: Private moon lander Odysseus sends first images from space

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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