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Intuitive Machines carried out an attempt to land on the Moon.

A spacecraft built and operated by Intuitive Machines, based in Houston, attempted a lunar landing, representing the first American attempt in over half a century and the first solely by a private company.

The lander robot, named Odysseus, departed from lunar orbit headed for the Malapert A crater near the lunar south pole. Scheduled to land at 5:30 p.m. EST (2230 GMT) on Thursday. Equipped with scientific and technological instruments for NASA and commercial clients, it’s designed to function on solar power for seven days at the polar landing site.

En la imagen se muestra una exploración espacial de EE.UU.

The unmanned spacecraft has been orbiting the Moon at about 57 miles (92 km) since its arrival on Wednesday, six days after being launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Intuitive Machines reported that Odysseus remains in excellent health, transmitting flight data and lunar images from its control center in Houston.

If successful, the IM-1 mission will mark the first controlled descent of an American spacecraft to the lunar surface since Apollo 17 in 1972. To date, only four other countries, including the former Soviet Union, China, India, and more recently, Japan, have achieved lunar landings. United States remains the only country to have sent humans to the lunar surface.

The future of moon landings

The success of Odysseus would signify the first “soft landing” on the Moon by a commercial vehicle and would kick off NASA’s Artemis lunar program. Designed to conduct its first crewed landing by the end of 2026 as part of sustained lunar exploration and preparation for future Mars missions, focusing on the lunar south pole for its potential abundance of frozen water.

Intuitive Machines leads the IM-1 flight as part of the CLPS program, founded by Stephen Altemus in 2013, former deputy director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Aimed at cost reduction by utilizing smaller, less experienced private companies to transport instruments and equipment to the Moon. The rise of commercial space companies has been fueled by technological advancements that have revolutionized spaceflight since the days of the Apollo program and Surveyor lunar robotic missions. Will this be a successful outcome for the United States?

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