Wednesday April 17, 2024

Odysseus minutes from becoming first US craft to land on moon after 50 years

Intuitive Machines' Odysseus spacecraft revives hope for US Artemis programme with possible safe landing

By Web Desk
February 22, 2024
Intuitive Machiness Odysseus Nova-C lander captured this view of Earth while on its journey to the Moon. — Intuitive Machines
Intuitive Machines's Odysseus Nova-C lander captured this view of Earth while on its journey to the Moon. — Intuitive Machines

Odysseus, an American spacecraft may successfully land on the moon for the first time in fifty years moments from now on, reviving hopes for the country's Artemis programme to create a permanent presence on the moon.

Today at 5:30pm EST (2230 GMT), Odysseus, also known as "Odie," a 14-foot-tall (4.3 metres) lander constructed and run by the Houston-based business Intuitive Machines, will make an attempt to land near the moon's south pole, according to Space.

Nasa is providing live streaming of the landing and you can also watch it directly from the space agency. The start time for coverage is 4:00pm EST (2100 GMT).

Six of the twelve payloads that Odysseus carried on his six-day journey to the moon on February 15 were Nasa research and technology devices. (Intuitive Machines was paid $118 million by the agency to travel to the moon.) 

The telephone booth-sized spacecraft successfully completed manoeuvres yesterday, February 21, placing it in a tight circular orbit around the moon one day ahead of its landing, after sailing more than 620,000 miles (1,000,000 km).

"We're very excited, but we're also very nervous," said Jack Burns, a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who's the principal investigator for one of the Nasa science instruments onboard Odysseus. "The success has been mixed in going to the surface of the moon."

Odysseus is scheduled to land on the rim of Malapert A, a tiny crater located approximately 190 miles (300 km) from the lunar south pole on the side facing Earth if all proceeds as planned today. Since no private probe has ever made a soft landing on the moon, success would be historic.

Others have made an attempt. After a propellant leak destroyed the Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic's Peregrine lander during its launch last month, it crashed down to Earth. 

Both the Japanese Hakuto-R and Israeli Beresheet spacecraft crashed during their attempts to land on the moon in April 2023 and April 2019 respectively, after reaching lunar orbit.