Intuitive Machines' private Odysseus moon lander on track for Feb. 22 lunar landing


The voyaging Odysseus remains on course for a moon landing this week.

The Odysseus moon lander, built by Houston company Intuitive Machines, completed two engine burns in deep space on Feb. 16 and Feb. 18 and is sailing on the right course through space, the company said on X. The mission lifted off on a a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket early Feb. 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and all systems and science are healthy as it makes its way towards the moon.

But the lander will soon be put to the test. “Odysseus’ largest challenge to date,” officials added in the update thread, will be “lunar orbit insertion,” which is expected to take place Wednesday (Feb. 21). The engine firing will put Odysseus in orbit around the moon in preparation for landing the following day, Thursday (Feb. 22), at 5:49 p.m. EST (2249 GMT).

Related: Missions to the moon: Past, present and future

a cylindrical spacecraft with six legs can be seen moving away from a large silver cylinder. Earth can be seen in the background

a cylindrical spacecraft with six legs can be seen moving away from a large silver cylinder. Earth can be seen in the background

Odysseus aims to be the first private moon lander to safely reach the surface of the moon, following a few unsuccessful attempts by other companies in recent years. It also may be the first United States lander since the Apollo 17 crewed mission of December 1972.

Its landing site is a tiny crater roughly 190 miles (300 kilometers) from the moon’s south pole, about where NASA hopes to place astronauts later in the 2020s under the agency’s Artemis program of lunar exploration. Artemis 3 is now scheduled to make the historic landing in 2026 or so, following a recent delay for several technical reasons.

The 12 payloads on board Odysseus include six NASA instruments as part of the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, or CLPS. This program aims to fly NASA science payloads to the moon on a set of private landers, to scout ahead of Artemis missions.

The NASA science experiments onboard the lander will investigate matters ranging from precision landing technology to looking at how Odysseus’ exhaust plume affects the regolith (rock and dirt) underneath it as it flies to the surface. Private science is on board as well, such as an investigation of insulating clothing by Columbia Sportswear.

a small camera lens with wires protruding from it is mounted to a white shaft

a small camera lens with wires protruding from it is mounted to a white shaft

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— What is Intuitive Machines and how is it aiming for the moon?

Odysseus, whose mission is known as IM-1, is the second CLPS mission to fly in 2024. Astrobotic flew the Peregrine lander into space on Jan. 8 on board the first launch of United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rocket.

While its launch went well, a fuel leak aboard Peregrine forced controllers to aim the lander instead for a controlled destruction in Earth’s atmosphere on Jan. 18.





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