Spacecraft makes 1st US moon landing in more than 50 years

February 23, 2024, 4:03 pm

HOUSTON, US – The Odysseus lander on Thursday became the first US spacecraft in more than a half century to land on the moon.

Intuitive Machines, the Houston, Texas-based company that built the craft, became the first commercial enterprise to ever land a spacecraft on the lunar surface.

"We can confirm without a doubt the equipment is on the moon," said Intuitive Machines' co-founder and chief technology officer Tim Crane on NASA's live broadcast of the landing. "Odysseus has a new home."

The spacecraft launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week and entered the moon's orbit on Wednesday. Thursday's lunar touchdown made this the first American moon landing since NASA's Apollo program came to an end in 1972.

The Odysseus lander is carrying several NASA instruments, including a radio beacon to transmit its precise geolocation as well as high-resolution cameras to capture how the surface of the moon changes from interactions with the engine plume of the spacecraft.

Intuitive Machines was one of several companies approved by the US space agency to build private lunar landers that could send scientific payloads into space. NASA paid the company a reported $118 million for Thursday's moon mission.

Experts said these robotic missions are important to explore the moon as NASA and the Canadian Space Agency prepare to send four astronauts to fly around the moon in its upcoming Artemis II mission next year.

If that mission is successful, NASA plans to launch its Artemis III mission for a scheduled moon landing in 2026 with four astronauts aboard -- three Americans and one Canadian. (Anadolu)