With Intuitive Machines, the US returns to the Moon

Intuitive Machines

The Odysseus space module operated by US company Intuitive Machines successfully landed on the Moon on February 22, 2024, eight days after its launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida.  

Coming more than fifty years after the conclusion of the Apollo program, this achievement signals the return of the US to the lunar surface and marks the first time that a private company has landed on Earth’s natural satellite. 

“After troubleshooting communications, flight controllers have confirmed Odysseus is upright and starting to send data,” Intuitive Machines announced on X (formerly Twitter). “Right now, we are working to downlink the first images from the lunar surface.” 

The mission, IM-1, was successfully launched on February 15, 2024, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Odysseus carries six instruments owned by NASA aimed at gathering information about the lunar environment, as part of the Artemis manned space program which plans to send astronauts to the Moon by 2026. The contract value for this initial exploration mission with the company stands at $118 million. 

In early January 2024, the US company Astrobotic, also contracted by NASA to transport its instruments to the Moon, attempted to touch down its Peregrine lander on the lunar surface. However, the mission encountered issues with fuel leaks and misaligned solar panels, resulting in failure.  

In April 2019, the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet, one of the early private initiatives in this realm, crashed on the Moon. A few years later, in April 2023, a lander operated by the Japanese company Ispace lost contact and likely crashed onto the lunar surface while attempting to land. 

On August 23, 2023, Indian lunar probe Chandrayaan-3 successfully landed near the Moon’s South Pole, making India the first country to land a probe in the region. 

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