The United States has successfully landed a private spacecraft on the moon for the first time since 1972.

The United States has successfully landed a private spacecraft on the moon for the first time since 1972.

Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lander

On Thursday, the spacecraft successfully landed on the moon after a tense and momentous descent due to a malfunction in the navigation sensor. This is the first time a spacecraft built in the United States has successfully landed on the moon.moon landing

In over five decades and for the first time from a non-governmental organization.

Odysseus successfully landed at 6:23 p.m. EST near a crater called Malapert A, located approximately 186 miles from the moon’s south pole. This was after delaying the final descent by one orbit in order to utilize a NASA navigation sensor and test new software patches that would send data to the lander’s flight computer.


This is a representation of the Odysseus lander on the moon’s surface created by an artist.

Intuitive Machines

The engineers at Intuitive Machines’ Nova control center in Houston had anticipated that it would take around two minutes to restore communication after landing. However, the expected signal was not immediately detected.

Last week, the Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched Odysseus from the Kennedy Space Center. The agency also praised their commercial moon program, stating that they accomplished a flawless landing.

“According to the speaker, the United States has made a historic return to the moon after over 50 years. It is also the first time in human history that a commercial American company has successfully launched and completed a mission to the moon. This event highlights the strength and potential of NASA’s partnerships with commercial entities.”

He ended by saying, “What an achievement! … This accomplishment is a significant advancement for mankind.”

However, a thorough evaluation of the spacecraft’s condition and its equipment required an examination of telemetry data. After two hours of the spacecraft’s landing, the company announced that “following communication troubleshooting, flight controllers have verified that Odysseus is in an upright position and beginning to transmit data. Currently, our team is focused on downloading the initial images from the moon’s surface.”


Intuitive Machines

The journey downward started the day after Odysseus entered an orbit that was angled 80 degrees to the moon’s equator. As it descended towards the surface on Thursday, cameras and lasers on board were set to scan the ground below and locate distinct features, which were then used to adjust the lander’s path through steering inputs in its guidance system.

However, the sensors did not function correctly and as a result, Intuitive Machines had to use NASA sensors that were included as a technology showcase. Although these sensors were not meant for landing, they were successfully providing the necessary navigation data during the descent, according to reports from engineers.

12 minutes prior to landing, the primary engine of the spacecraft was activated while at an altitude of approximately 20 miles. A few minutes later, the craft rotated from a horizontal position to a vertical one, descending directly towards the surface.

When the spacecraft reached an altitude of less than 100 feet, it was equipped with a special camera system called “EagleCam,” which was designed by students from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The purpose of this camera was to detach and capture images of the lander’s descent from a side angle. Additionally, NASA cameras on the spacecraft will also take photos of the ground directly below.

When Odysseus was approximately 33 feet above the surface, the main engine should have slowed down to a planned landing speed of around 2.2 mph, which is similar to the walking pace of older individuals. Although it took more time than anticipated to regain communication after landing, the faint signal received in the United Kingdom was reassuring.

“We have successfully received your message, Odysseus lander!” declared the Goonhilly tracking station on their social media platform. “We extend our congratulations to the @int_machines team and our fellow partner organizations for their achievement. We are thrilled to have contributed to this success!”

Footage from the lander’s internal cameras and the EagleCam were unable to be sent to Earth immediately. Engineers from Intuitive Machines initially stated that the initial images would be received within approximately thirty minutes after landing, but due to communication difficulties, those pictures were anticipated to arrive later.

The recent achievement of a successful lunar landing marked the first time a spacecraft built in the U.S. has touched down on the moon since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. It also marked the first time a privately-built spacecraft has accomplished this feat.


On Wednesday, a camera on the Odysseus lander took a photo of the moon underneath the spacecraft following a crucial engine maneuver to slow down and enter its orbit.

Intuitive Machines

Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic

Last month, the company aimed to achieve that esteemed recognition through its Peregrine lander. However, the mission was hindered by a damaged propellant tank shortly after its launch on January 9th. Two previous private attempts at reaching the moon were also by Israel and the other by Japan

Additionally, it resulted in an unsuccessful outcome.

The only countries that have successfully landed spacecraft on the moon are the United States, the Soviet Union, China, India, and Japan.Japan’s “SLIM” lander

The touchdown on Jan. 19 was only partially successful, with the object tipping over.

Peregrine and Odysseus were both partially financed by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, also known as CLPS. This initiative aims to incentivize private companies to create transportation systems that NASA can utilize for delivering payloads to the moon.


A group of astronauts are making preparations to touch down near the southern region of the moon in the upcoming years.

NASA gave Astrobotic $108 million for their involvement in the Peregrine mission, as well as an additional $129 million for the Odysseus equipment and travel to the moon.

What does the Odysseus moon lander contain?

Odysseus had a total of twelve payloads, six of which were NASA instruments and the remaining six were commercial. These included miniature moon sculptures created by Jeff Koons, a proof-of-concept cloud storage technology, insulation blankets from Columbia Sportswear, and a compact astronomical telescope.

Among the experiments conducted by NASA were the following: an instrument used to analyze the charged particle environment on the surface of the moon, a demonstration of navigation technology, and cameras facing downward to capture images of how the lander’s engine exhaust affects the soil at the landing site.

In addition, there is a new sensor on the spacecraft that utilizes radio waves to precisely measure the amount of cryogenic propellant remaining in a weightless tank in space. This technology is anticipated to be beneficial for future missions to the moon and beyond.

The duration of Odysseus’ surface operation is estimated to be one week, until the sunset at the landing location. Once this occurs, the lander’s solar panels will be unable to produce power and the spacecraft will cease functioning. Unfortunately, Odysseus was not constructed to endure the extreme cold of the lunar night.