Lunar lander Odysseus touches down on the moon’s surface

Odysseus, the first robotic probe to be sent by a commercial company to the moon, is scheduled to set down near the lunar south pole.

The first U.S. commercial spacecraft sent to the moon by a private company but paid for by NASA landed on the lunar surface Thursday.

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Lunar lander Odysseus confirmed to be upright

Update 9:34 p.m. EST Feb. 22: Intuitive Machines on X, formerly known as Twitter, confirmed that after flight controllers worked through some glitches with the communication, they were able to determine that Odysseus is upright.

“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,” Intuitive Machines said.

-- Jessica Goodman, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Odysseus lands on the moon

Update 6:43 p.m. EST Feb. 22: Tim Crain, the chief technology officer who is leading mission control said that the Lunar lander Odysseus landed on the moon, according to The New York Times.

It touched down at 6:23 p.m. EST.

It is the first U.S. commercial spacecraft to land on the moon since 1972, the Times reported.

“I know this was a nail-biter, but we are on the surface, and we are transmitting,” Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus announced, according to CNN. “Welcome to the moon.”

It is not clear yet what the status is of the equipment but Intuitive Machines confirmed it landed, CNN reported.

-- Jessica Goodman, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Original story: The phone booth-sized craft, called Odysseus, is a robotic probe developed by Intuitive Machines. It was set on a course that will have it land near the lunar south pole.

The mission is one of several that NASA has purchased from private companies as part of the agency’s CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) plan, the space agency said. It paid Intuitive Machines, a Houston, Texas-based company, $118 million for the mission.

The probe was launched from Florida last week aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and successfully positioned itself for Thursday’s landing.

Here’s what we know about what is going to happen on Thursday.

What is Odysseus’ mission?

Odysseus, nicknamed “Odie”, is a 14-foot-tall lander built to try to land close to the moon’s south pole.

Odie is set to land near the Malapert A crater — a large crater near the moon’s south pole.

Landing anywhere on the moon is tricky, but in this area, it is especially difficult. There are many craters in the region NASA wants Odie to go to, but, in reality, Odie’s mission is the landing.

Odysseus was first set to land at Oceanus Procellarum, the largest basaltic plain on the moon. Oceanus Procellarum is a potential landing site for NASA’s Artemis program -- the agency’s plan to return astronauts to the moon for the first time in 50 years.

Intuitive Machines changed the landing location to Malapert A over concerns that if Odie crashes, the debris will interfere with other ships landing there.

“Landing near Malapert A also will help mission planners understand how to communicate and send data back to Earth from a location that is low on the lunar horizon,” NASA said in a statement that Space.com reported.

What will Odysseus do if it successfully lands on the moon’s surface?

Malapert A is relatively flat and thus safe to land on, according to NASA. The probe will target a landing area at Malapert A that is the size of a football field.

During descent, the spacecraft will primarily rely on real-time images and onboard navigation software to adjust its speed and touch down gently near the crater, Space.com reported.

Odie, also called IM-1, will have a very short mission there. It is expected to last about a week. Temperatures are the main reason for the short mission.

Temperatures in that part of the moon get up to over 212 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, so radiators built into the spacecraft are expected to protect it from getting too hot, Space.com reported.

However, the lander’s main problem is that it cannot survive a frigid night on the moon because there are no heaters on board to keep its electronics at operating temperature. NASA hopes to get observations from Odie as long as the probe’s battery holds out.”

When is Odysseus set to land?

The touchdown try is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. ET Thursday.

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