Private U.S. spacecraft Odysseus makes historic lunar landing

Intuitive Machines, a Texas-based company, achieved a historic milestone as its spacecraft, Odysseus, successfully landed near the moon’s south pole on Thursday. This marks the first U.S. landing on the lunar surface in over 50 years and represents a groundbreaking achievement by the private sector. NASA, collaborating with Intuitive Machines, celebrated the event as a significant step towards its objective of deploying commercially flown spacecraft for scientific missions on the moon before astronauts return later in the decade.

The landing, documented in a joint webcast from Intuitive Machines’ mission operations center in Houston, featured a tense final approach and descent. A glitch in the spacecraft’s autonomous navigation system emerged during this phase, prompting ground engineers to implement an untested solution at the last moment. Post-landing, initial communication challenges raised concerns about the spacecraft’s condition or potential obstructions.

Odysseus, an uncrewed six-legged robot lander, touched down at approximately 6:23 p.m. EST, with NASA’s research instruments on board. Following an anticipated radio blackout, it took some time to re-establish contact with the spacecraft, and the faint signal received left mission control uncertain about its precise status. Eventually, contact was confirmed, and mission director Tim Crain conveyed the success, stating, “Our equipment is on the surface of the moon, and we are transmitting.”

Later updates on social media confirmed that Odysseus was upright and transmitting data. Despite the challenges, the achievement marks a significant leap forward in private sector space exploration and lunar exploration endeavors.

Photo: Intuitive Machines