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America makes first moon landing in over 50 years as Odysseus touches down on the lunar surface

On February 22, the spacecraft's soft landing in the region of the moon’s south pole marked the first-ever successful commercial lunar landing.

America makes first moon landing in over 50 years as Odysseus touches down on the lunar surface
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Pixabay, NASA | Steve Altemus

After the remarkable breakthrough that Apollo 11 brought about by facilitating humans to set foot on the moon's surface for the first time, the United States made subsequent achievements through the Apollo programs. In 1972, Apollo 17 became America's last successful moon mission—until now. After over five decades, the U.S. has finally returned to the moon's surface. On February 22, as part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lunar lander made a successful moon landing. Odysseus has now also become the first ever commercial unmanned spacecraft to land on the moon.

Image Source: Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface. The Apollo 11 Lunar Module, code-named Eagle, with US astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on board, landed in the Sea of Tranquillity on 20 July 1969. Apollo 11 was the fifth manned Apollo mission, and was the first to land on the Moon. Artist Neil Armstrong. (Photo by Heritage Space/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
Image Source: Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface. The Apollo 11 Lunar Module, code-named Eagle, with US astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on board, landed in the Sea of Tranquillity on 20 July 1969. Apollo 11 was the fifth manned Apollo mission and was the first to land on the Moon. Artist Neil Armstrong. (Photo by Heritage Space/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

After a seven-day journey to the lunar orbit, Odysseus, owned by Texas-based private tech firm Intuitive Machines (IM), made a soft landing near Malapert A in the south pole region of the moon at 5:24 p.m. CST. As per the press release, the Nova-C lander is in good condition, working on solar power and transmitting lunar data to the company. The robot carries six NASA science research and technology demonstrations along with customer payloads. The soft landing of this IM mission was ensured with the help of NASA's precision landing technology. The upcoming Artemis campaign by NASA is expected to send astronauts to the same region where Odysseus has landed, which makes this mission's success beneficial for the upcoming campaign.



 

NASA announced the successful and historic moon landing with a hilarious tweet that read, "Your order was delivered to the moon!" NASA administrator Bill Nelsons issued a statement, "For the first time in more than half a century, America returned to the moon. Congratulations to Intuitive Machines for placing the lunar lander Odysseus carrying NASA scientific instruments to a place no person or machine has gone before, the lunar South Pole." He added, "This feat from Intuitive Machines, SpaceX, and NASA demonstrates the promise of American leadership in space and the power of commercial partnerships under NASA’s CLPS initiative. Further, this success opens the door for new voyages under Artemis to send astronauts to the moon, then onward to Mars."



 

Odysseus is expected to investigate lunar surface interactions and radio astronomy. Also, the spacecraft carries a retroreflector array that will be a part of a network of location markers on the moon which in turn will aid in communication and navigation in the case of unmanned missions in the future. As per BBC, the CLPS missions involved NASA paying several private American companies for payload services to the moon. Odysseus was one among the six CLPS missions planned for this year, for which NASA paid a sum of $118M (£93m). Following Odysseus's success, IM has two more missions planned this year.

Steve Altemus, CEO of Intuitive Machines, said in a statement, "In daring to confront one of humanity’s greatest challenges, Intuitive Machines created an entire lunar program that has ventured farther than any American mission to land on the moon in over 50 years," and added, "This humbling moment reminds us that pursuing the extraordinary requires both boldness and resilience." As soon as it landed, Odysseus began transmitting data and images from the moon's surface. The image of the Schomberger crater on the moon captured by the spacecraft and sent to the Texan company's mission control is astonishing in the world of science. 



 

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