HomeStock MarketUS moon lander successfully enters lunar orbit, preparing for touchdown.

US moon lander successfully enters lunar orbit, preparing for touchdown.

Private US Moon Lander Reaches Lunar Orbit

Private Moon Lander Prepares for Historic Touchdown

A moon lander developed by Intuitive Machines, a company based in Houston, successfully entered lunar orbit on Wednesday. This marks the beginning of an attempt at the first U.S. touchdown on the moon in over 50 years, and the first ever by a private spacecraft.

Orbital Maneuver and Landing Schedule

The six-legged Nova-C lander, named Odysseus, achieved a circular orbit 57 miles above the lunar surface after executing a nearly seven-minute orbital insertion maneuver. The spacecraft is expected to gradually lower its orbit over the next 24 hours and land at crater Malapert A near the moon’s south pole at 5:49 p.m. EST on Thursday.

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Launch and Mission Goals

Odysseus was launched six days ago atop a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. If the landing is successful, it will be the first controlled descent to the lunar surface by a U.S. spacecraft since Apollo 17 in 1972.

Significance of the Mission

The mission would also mark the first “soft landing” on the moon by a commercially manufactured and operated vehicle, as well as the first under NASA’s Artemis lunar program.

Risks and Previous Attempts

Previous attempts by private companies to achieve a lunar touchdown have faced challenges. Intuitive Machines’ mission comes shortly after the lunar lander of another firm, Astrobotic Technology, experienced a propulsion system leak on its way to the moon.

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Collaboration with NASA and Future Missions

While considered an Intuitive Machines mission, the IM-1 flight is carrying six NASA payloads of instruments designed to gather data about the lunar environment ahead of NASA’s planned first crewed Artemis mission to the moon later this decade.

Exploration and Research

Small landers such as Nova-C are expected to carry instruments to closely survey the lunar landscape, its resources, and potential hazards. Odysseus will focus on space weather interactions with the moon’s surface, radio astronomy, precision landing technologies, and navigation.

Global Lunar Exploration

To date, spacecraft from just five countries have ever landed on the moon – the United States, the former Soviet Union, China, India, and, most recently, Japan.

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