Odysses’ Odyssey: Intuitive Machines Leads NASA in Historic Lunar Touchdown on Feb 22!

Intuitive Machines, a Texas-based company, made history on February 22 when one of its spacecraft, the Odysses performed a lunar landing close to the lunar south pole, the first American moon landing in more than 50 years.
Odyssey, a six-legged robot lander with a mass of roughly 2323 kg, landed at 6:23 AM EST. In a joint webcast, Intuitive Machines and NASA commentators announced the opening of a new tab mission control center in Houston.
 An issue with the spacecraft’s autonomous navigation system made the landing challenging, necessitating the deployment of a backup plan by ground engineers in less than 11 hours.

Odysses, Intuitive Machine leaving earth

When contact with the spacecraft was restored following an anticipated radio blackout, it was discovered that the lander had indeed touched down. Mission control was complicated, though, by the lack of clarity surrounding the vehicle’s precise status and location.

“Congratulations to the IM team, our vehicle is on the lunar surface and we are communicating,” Intuitive Machines mission director Tim Crain said to the control center. “We will see what else we can get from this.”    Instantly hailing the accomplishment as a “victory,”

NASA administrator Bill Nelson declared, “Odyssey has seized the moon.”  The spacecraft landed in the vicinity of the Malapert A crater, which is close to the lunar south pole, as intended.

It was not intended for live video to be captured during the landing, which happened one week after the spacecraft’s launch from Florida and one day after it entered lunar orbit.  Since NASA’s final crewed moon mission, Apollo 17, with astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, landed on the moon’s surface in 1972, Thursday’s landing marks the first controlled landing by an American spacecraft.

Only four other nations’ spacecraft have made moon landings thus far: China, India, the former Soviet Union, and Japan last month. The only nation to have sent people to the moon is still the United States.

"Odysses has a new home"- Intuitive Machines

Odyssey is delivering a suite of scientific instruments and technology demonstrations for NASA and multiple commercial clients. These are designed to operate on solar power for seven days before sunset at the lunar landing site.

NASA’s payload will focus on space weather, radio astronomy, and other aspects of the lunar environment in addition to gathering data on the expected return of astronauts at the end of the decade. Elon Musk’s SpaceX company launched a Falcon 9 rocket with the IM-1 mission toward the moon last Thursday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Dawn of Artemis

As China launches its crewed spacecraft before the United States can, the arrival of Odysseus also signifies the first “soft landing” on the moon by the first vehicle produced and driven commercially, and the first to be used in NASA’s Artemis lunar program. As a first step toward eventually sending humans to Mars, NASA plans to land its first crewed Artemis in late 2026 as part of a long-term, continuous lunar exploration program.

The initiative concentrates on the south pole of the moon in part due to a rumored abundance of frozen water that can be utilized for both rocket fuel production and life support. Under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, several small landers, including Odysseus, are anticipated to lead the way.

The program’s goal is to transport hardware and instruments to the moon at a lower cost than the traditional method of the U.S. space agency building and launching those vehicles itself.

Odysses, Intuitive Machine

Under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, several small landers, including Odysseus, are anticipated to lead the way. The program’s objective is to send hardware and instruments to the moon for less money than the United States conventional approach.
space agency building and launching those vehicles itself.  

There are risks associated with relying more on smaller, less seasoned private ventures.  Just last month, after being launched into orbit on January 8 by a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan rocket on its maiden flight, the lunar lander of another company, Astrobotic Technologies, experienced a propulsion system leak on its journey to the moon.

Following the disastrous attempts by companies from Israel and Japan, the malfunction of Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander marked the third failure of a private company to accomplish a lunar touchdown.   Intuitive Machines is the term used to describe the IM-1 flight, even though Odysseus is the newest member of NASA’s CLPS program. Stephen Altemus, the current president and CEO of the company, was a co-founder in 2013. Previously, he served as NASA’s Johnson Space Center’s deputy director in Houston. The expansion of commercial space activities has been largely attributed to recent technological developments.

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