24/7 Space News
America returns spaceship to the Moon, a private sector first
America returns spaceship to the Moon, a private sector first
By Issam AHMED
Washington (AFP) Feb 23, 2024

For the first time since the Apollo era, an American spaceship has landed on the Moon: an uncrewed commercial robot, funded by NASA to pave the way for US astronauts to return to Earth's cosmic neighbor later this decade.

Odysseus, built by Houston-based Intuitive Machines, touched down near the lunar south pole Thursday at 2323 GMT, after a nail-biting final descent where flight controllers had to switch to an experimental landing system and took several minutes to establish radio contact with the lander after it came to rest.

"Today for the first time in more than a half century, the US has returned to the Moon," NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a video. "Today for the first time in the history of humanity, a commercial company, an American company, launched and led the voyage up there."

Images from an external "EagleCam" designed to shoot out from the spacecraft during its final seconds of descent could be released early Friday, a member of the team that built it told AFP.

"After troubleshooting communications, flight controllers have confirmed Odysseus is upright and starting to send data," Intuitive Machines said in its latest update on X.

"Right now, we are working to downlink the first images from the lunar surface."

A previous moonshot by another American company last month ended in failure, raising the stakes to demonstrate that private industry had what it took to repeat a feat last achieved by US space agency NASA during its manned Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

- Lunar south pole -

Underscoring the technical challenges, an onboard navigation system failed and Odysseus instead flew the final leg of its trip using an experimental laser guidance system developed by NASA to run only as a technology demonstration.

Confirmation of landing was supposed to come seconds after the milestone, but instead nearly 15 minutes passed as announcers mused whether the craft had come down "off angle."

Finally, the company's chief technology officer Tim Crain confirmed "our equipment is on the surface of the Moon and we are transmitting," as applause broke out in mission control.

Odysseus touched down in Malapert A, an impact crater 300 kilometers (180 miles) from the lunar south pole.

NASA hopes to eventually build a long-term presence and harvest polar ice for both drinking water and rocket fuel for an onward journey to Mars under Artemis, its flagship program.

The current mission is "one of the first forays into the south pole to actually look at the environmental conditions to a place we're going to be sending our astronauts in the future," said senior NASA official Joel Kearns.

NASA's first crewed mission to the region is scheduled for no sooner than 2026. America's geopolitical rival China is also planning to send its first crew to the Moon in 2030, ushering in a new era of space competition.

- Exclusive club -

Hexagon-shaped Odysseus, which is about the size of a large golf cart, launched from Florida on February 15 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, boasting a new liquid methane, liquid oxygen propulsion system that traversed the quarter million mile voyage in quick time.

It carries six NASA science instruments, including cameras to investigate how the lunar surface changes as a result of the engine plume from a spaceship, and a device to analyze clouds of charged dust particles that hang over the surface at twilight as a result of solar radiation.

The rest of the cargo was shipped on behalf of Intuitive Machines' private clients, and includes 125 stainless steel mini Moons by the artist Jeff Koons.

The cargo can run for up to seven days before lunar night occurs, rendering Odysseus inoperable.

NASA paid Intuitive Machines $118 million to ship its hardware under a new initiative called Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS), which it created to delegate cargo services to the private sector to achieve savings and stimulate a wider lunar economy.

The first CLPS mission, by Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic, launched in January, but its Peregrine spacecraft sprung a fuel leak and was eventually brought back to burn up in Earth's atmosphere.

Spaceships landing on the Moon must navigate treacherous terrain and rely on thrusters to control their descent in the absence of an atmosphere.

Until now, only the space agencies of the Soviet Union, United States, China, India and Japan had accomplished the feat, making for an exclusive club.

Related Links
Mars News and Information at MarsDaily.com
Lunar Dreams and more

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
TRIDENT Drill Integrated into NASA's VIPER Rover, Completing its Scientific Arsenal
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Feb 15, 2024
NASA has successfully completed the integration of the TRIDENT drill, the final science instrument, into the VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover), marking a significant milestone in preparation for its lunar mission. The integration of TRIDENT-The Regolith Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrain-into VIPER's suite of scientific tools was executed by engineers at Honeybee Robotics in Altadena, California, showcasing the collaborative efforts driving this mission forward. TRIDENT is n ... read more

Flawless Photonics to Test Groundbreaking In-Space Glass Fabrication on ISS

Russia launches supply rocket to ISS

Space Perspective Unveils The Future Of Human Space Travel

Millennium Space Systems Partners with Voyager for Next-Gen uSTAR-250 Star Trackers

ESA and PLD Space join forces to enhance small satellite launch flexibility

Rocket Lab Schedules Launch Date for 45th Electron Mission to Deploy Earth-Imaging Satellite for Synspective

STORIES of Space teams with Maritime Launch Services for a Nova Scotia launch

Equatorial Launch Australia Partners with Equatorial Space Systems for Rocket Launches in 2024

Fun Math and a New Butte: Sols 4096-4097

NASA seeks candidates for yearlong simulated Mars mission

Partial Cover Malfunction on Perseverance's SHERLOC Instrument Impacts Mars Research

Confirmation of ancient lake on Mars builds excitement for Perseverance rover's samples

BIT advances microbiological research on Chinese Space Station

Shenzhou 18 and 19 crews undertake intensive training for next missions

Space Pioneer and LandSpace Lead China's Private Sector to New Heights in Space

Tianzhou 6 burns up safely reentering Earth

Sidus Space Advances with LizzieSat Satellites LS-2 and LS-3 Production on Track

Trinity Capital commits $120 million in equipment financing to Rocket Lab

UK invests in pioneering Mars and Lunar science with new funding

Axiom Space and UK Space Agency seek innovative projects for upcoming mission

Japanese space debris inspection probe launched

ESA's ERS-2 satellite to fall back to Earth after 30 years in orbit

European satellite to crash back to Earth within week

Multi-orbit SATCOM solution by Hughes selected for AFRL's DEUCSI initiative

Passing Stars Altered Orbital Changes in Earth, Other Planets

SETI Institute Utilizes Advanced Ellipsoid Technique in Quest for Extraterrestrial Signals

Scientists Unveil Free-Floating Planetary Giants in the Orion Nebula

UC Irvine-led team unravels mysteries of planet formation and evolution in distant solar system

NASA invites public to dive into Juno's Spectacular Images of Io

Europa Clipper gears up with full instrument suite onboard

New images reveal what Neptune and Uranus really look like

Researchers reveal true colors of Neptune, Uranus

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2023 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.