The first moon landing in the United States since 1972, when a private spacecraft landed on the moon

says Houston-based Intuitive Machines Odysseus landing It landed on the moon today, becoming the first American-made spacecraft to reach the surface of the moon Landing on the moon For over 50 years and the first ever by a private company.

After some adjustments in the final hours, landing was expected at 6:24 PM EDT, but Mission Control in Houston remained on hold for about 15 minutes while it waited for confirmation signals from the spacecraft.

Finally, at 6:37 PM ET, Mission Control announced: “We can confirm, without a doubt, that our equipment is on the Moon and broadcasting.” But the status of the lander is not yet clear.

“Today, for the first time in more than half a century, the United States returned to the moon,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said after confirming the landing. “Today, for the first time in human history, a commercial company – an American company – has launched the flight there. Today is a day that shows the power and promise of NASA's commercial partnerships.”

After a day of braking in an orbit tilted 80 degrees to the moon's equator, Odysseus began a slow descent toward a point near the landing site about 186 miles from the moon's south pole.

The landing start was delayed about two hours after Intuitive Machines chose to keep Odysseus in an additional orbit, switching the lander to a different set of navigation sensors.

Intuitive machines

As it descends, the aircraft's onboard cameras and lasers are programmed to scan the ground below to identify landmarks, and provide guidance inputs to the lander's guidance system to help set the course.

About 12 minutes before landing, the main engine ignited at an altitude of just under 20 miles, flipping Odysseus from horizontal to vertical and plummeting straight toward the surface.

As the spacecraft descended to less than 100 feet, an innovative camera package, known as “EagleCam,” built by students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, aimed to drop and attempt to photograph the lander's final descent from the side. NASA's cameras on board the spacecraft will image the Earth directly below.

By the time Odysseus reached about 33 feet above the surface, the main engine was scheduled to drop to a planned descent speed of about 2.2 mph, the walking speed of an elderly person.

The landing, near the crater known as Malapert A, came one week later Launch from Kennedy Space Center.

A camera on the Odysseus lander captured an image of the moon beneath the spacecraft after a critical engine fire Wednesday to brake into lunar orbit.

Intuitive machines

Video from the lander's onboard cameras and EagleCam cannot be sent back to Earth in real time, but Intuitive Machines engineers at the company's Nova Control Center in Houston are expected to be able to capture the first images within a half-hour or so.

A successful landing on the moon's surface would mark the first landing of an American-made spacecraft since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, and the first landing ever of a private spacecraft.

Astrobotic, based in Pittsburgh It had hoped to claim that honor last month with the Peregrine lander, but the mission was derailed by a fuel tank rupture shortly after launch on January 9. One by Israel And the other with it Japanand also ended in failure.

Only the governments of the United States, the Soviet Union, China, India, and Japan have successfully placed landers on the moon, and Japanese SLIM lander. It was only partially successful, capsizing on landing on January 19.

Both Peregrine and Odysseus were funded in part through NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program, or CLPS (pronounced CLIPS), designed to encourage private industry to develop transportation capabilities that NASA can then use to transport payloads to the Moon.

An artist's concept of Intuitive Machines' Odysseus lander on the moon.

Intuitive machines

The agency's goal is to help jump-start the development of new technologies and collect the data that will be needed Artemis Astronauts plan to land near the moon's south pole later this decade.

NASA paid Astrobotic $108 million for its role in the Peregrine mission and another $129 million for the Odysseus instruments and transportation to the Moon.

What's on board the Odysseus moon lander?

Odysseus is equipped with six NASA instruments and six other commercial payloads, including small moon sculptures by artist Jeff Koons, proof-of-concept cloud storage technology, Columbia insulated sports blankets and a small astronomical telescope.

NASA's experiments include: an instrument to study the environment of charged particles on the moon's surface, another designed to test navigation techniques, and downward-facing cameras designed to photograph how the exhaust of the landing engine disrupts the soil at the landing site.

Also on board: an innovative sensor that uses radio waves to precisely determine the amount of cryogenic propellant remaining in the tank in the weightless environment of space, a technology expected to be useful for lunar missions and other deep space missions.

Odysseus and its instruments are expected to work on the surface for about a week, until the sun sets at the landing site. At this point, the probe's solar cells will no longer be able to generate power and the spacecraft will stop working. Odysseus was not designed to survive the frigid lunar night.

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