US Attempts Commercial Moon Landing For the Second Time 

A private US company has launched its lunar lander, named Odysseus on Thursday. Odysseus is anticipated to successfully land on the next week

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US Attempts Commercial Moon Landing For the Second Time
John Raoux/AP

A private US company, Intuitive Machines, has launched its lunar lander, named Odysseus, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 1:05 am EST on Thursday with hopes of landing on the moon.  

The mission comes just a month after a rival’s lunar lander faced difficulties and crashed back to Earth. NASA, the primary sponsor with experiments on board, is anticipating a successful moon landing next week, aiming to advance the lunar economy in preparation for upcoming astronaut missions.

The SpaceX Falcon rocket, carrying Odysseus, soared into the night sky, marking another private attempt to explore the lunar surface. The touchdown attempt is scheduled for February 22, following a day in lunar orbit.

As part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS), Odysseus is undertaking various experiments, including a laser reflector array, a Doppler lidar for precise navigation, and a CubeSat acting as a radio beacon.

The Houston-based company aims to land Odysseus just 186 miles shy of the moon’s south pole, an area rich in frozen water, which NASA plans to explore further in the coming decade. This region is known for its challenges, with treacherous craters and cliffs.

Intuitive Machines nicknamed its lander after Homer’s hero in “The Odyssey.” Trent Martin, vice president of space systems, wished the lander “Godspeed” and encouraged it to make history.

“There have been a lot of sleepless nights getting ready for this.” – Steve Altemus, co-founder and chief executive of Intuitive Machines.

Odysseus is about four meters tall, weighs approximately 1,908 kg, and is solar-powered, generating about 200 W. It is expected to operate on the lunar surface for one lunar day before the freezing lunar night renders it inactive.

Notably, only five countries— the U.S., Russia, China, India, and Japan—have achieved a lunar landing, and no private business has done so yet. The U.S. has not returned to the moon’s surface since the Apollo program ended more than five decades ago.

Odysseus is also carrying Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Eaglecam, set to capture images during the descent. The spacecraft is expected to conclude its operations after a week on the lunar surface.

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