The United States will return to the moon on Thursday, marking the first time an American-made spacecraft has landed on the lunar surface since the last Apollo mission in 1972.
The $118 million unmanned Odysseus, or Odie, is flying through space and is about 310 miles from landing at 6:15 p.m. ET.
The six-legged lander is scheduled to land at 6:24 p.m. ET in a crater called Malapert A near the moon’s south pole, having slowed down from 4,000 miles per hour.
The landing attempt is broadcast live on nasa television. Flight controllers are expected to confirm the landing about 15 seconds after reaching the milestone.
While the mission is operated by a private company, NASA has sponsored the trip to bring its scientific instruments and technology to the moon.
Odysseus, or Odie, is flying through space, but unlike previous trips, this one is owned by Houston-based Intuitive Machines.
NASA’s payload will focus on collecting data on space weather interactions with the moon’s surface, radio astronomy and other aspects of the lunar environment for future landers and NASA’s planned astronaut return later in the year. decade.
However, Odie’s mission comes a month after another private company attempted to land on the moon without success.
Astrobotic Technology attempted to return the United States to the lunar surface with its Peregrine, but the lander suffered a propulsion system leak on its way shortly after being launched into orbit.
Peregrine returned to Earth, where it burned up in the atmosphere.
The malfunction of Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander marked the third failure by a private company to achieve a lunar landing, following ill-fated efforts by companies in Israel and Japan.
But Intuitive Machines hopes to beat the odds with Odie.
The unmanned spacecraft has been orbiting the Moon about 57 miles above the surface since reaching orbit on Wednesday.
This image provided by Intuitive Machines shows its Odysseus lunar lander on the near side of the moon following its insertion into lunar orbit on Wednesday.
The six-legged lander is scheduled to land at 5:30 p.m. ET in a crater called Malapert A near the Moon’s south pole.
Nova-C attempts the first moon landing by a private company
This is six days after it was launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
This is the first launch to the moon carried out by Elon Musk’s company.
Odie remained “in excellent health” as it continued to orbit the moon, approximately 239,000 miles from Earth, transmitting flight data and lunar images to Intuitive Machines’ mission control center in Houston, the company said Wednesday.
The vehicle carries a suite of scientific instruments and technology demonstrations for NASA and several commercial customers designed to operate for seven days on solar power before the sun sets over the polar landing site.
Intuitive Machines nicknamed its lander after Homer’s hero in ‘The Odyssey’, or ‘Odie’ for short.
—Good luck, Odysseus. Now let’s make history,” said Trent Martin, vice president of space systems.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from the LC-39A launch pad at Kennedy Space Center carrying Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lunar landing mission at Cape Canaveral.
Odysseus lunar lander
Only five countries (the United States, Russia, China, India and Japan) have achieved a moon landing and no private company has done so yet.
The United States has not returned to the lunar surface since the Apollo program ended more than five decades ago.
“There have been many sleepless nights preparing for this,” Intuitive Machines co-founder and CEO Steve Altemus said before the flight.
The current mission “will be one of the first forays to the South Pole to really observe the environmental conditions of the place where we will send our astronauts in the future,” said Joel Kearns, a senior NASA official.
‘What kind of dust or dirt is there, how hot or cold is it, what is the radiation environment? These are things you’d really like to know before you send out the first human explorers.