“America has returned to the Moon”: Private company makes historic landing near lunar south pole

It was the Apollo mission in 1972 when American hardware was last put down in the lunar soil.

Houston-based Intuitive Machines has made history by becoming the first commercial outfit to put a spacecraft on the Moon as it landed its Odysseus robot near the lunar south pole.

Flight director Tim Crain announced: “What we can confirm, without a doubt, is our equipment is on the surface of the Moon and we are transmitting.”

NASA had purchased room on Odysseus for six scientific instruments, and its administrator Bill Nelson congratulated Intuitive Machines for a mission he described as a “triumph.”

Bill Nelson said: “The US has returned to the Moon. Today, for the first time in the history of humanity, a commercial company – an American company – launched and led the voyage up there. And today is the day that shows the power and promise of Nasa’s commercial partnerships.”

Intuitive Machines has broken the United States’ half-century absence from the Moon’s surface.

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It was the Apollo mission in 1972 when American hardware was last put down in the lunar soil.

Intuitive Machines has confirmed that after troubleshooting communications, flight controllers have confirmed Odysseus is upright and starting to send data.

“Right now, we are working to downlink the first images from the lunar surface.”

Odysseus’ landing site is a cratered terrain next to a 5km-high mountain complex known as Malapert and is the southernmost point on the Moon ever visited by a spacecraft, at 80 degrees South.

This historic landing comes after a fellow US company Astrobotic abandoned its own Moon landing attempt in January, following a fuel leak.

Last week SpaceX’s Falcon rocket blasted off from Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center and helped dispatch Intuitive Machines’ lunar lander on its 230,000 miles (370,000km) journey.

Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 mission is the company’s first mission through the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, which aims to gain new insights into the lunar environment and expand the lunar economy to support future crewed missions under NASA’s Artemis campaign. 

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