Back on the Moon | God's World News

Back on the Moon

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    The Odysseus lunar lander floats over the near side of the Moon. Odysseus landed on the Moon on February 22. (Intuitive Machines via AP)
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    Employees cheer during a watch party moments after Intuitive Machines became the first commercial company to land on the Moon. (Raquel Natalicchio/Houston Chronicle via AP)
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    A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, carrying Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus, lifts off from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on February 15. (AP/John Raoux)
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Long time no touch, Moon.

It’s been more than 50 years since the United States had a touchdown on the lunar surface. A spacecraft built and flown by Intuitive Machines landed on the Moon on February 22. Intuitive Machines is the first private business to pull off that celestial feat.

The IM-1 lander, called Odysseus or “Odie,” tipped over at touchdown and ended up on its side near the Moon’s south pole. It used a methane-fueled engine. That allowed the craft to slow its speed by 1,800 meters per second. Odie first gave a weak signal. Flight controllers were later able to gain better contact, but Odie's awkward position is still hampering communications.

Intuitive Machines is based out of Houston, Texas. NASA is its primary customer. The space agency is paying the company $118 million to get its latest set of six experiments to the Moon. It hopes to scout the satellite with robotic explorers made by private contractors. Later this decade, astronauts of the Artemis program hope to land there. NASA’s famed Apollo moonwalkers last stirred up lunar dust in 1972.

Odysseus launched on February 15. The solar-powered lander will operate for up to seven days before the landing site is plunged into lunar night. Freezing temperatures will then make the vehicle unable to operate. The 14-foot tall, six-legged lander aimed for an area near the Moon’s south pole. The region is full of treacherous craters and cliffs. But it is also likely rich with frozen water.

The final few hours before Odie’s touchdown were loaded with extra stress. The lander’s laser navigation system failed. The company’s flight control team turned to an experimental NASA laser system. Odie took an extra lap around the Moon to allow time for the last-minute switch.

Just four other countries have pulled off a lunar landing: the Soviet Union, China, India, and Japan. The United States is still the only country to have landed humans on the Moon. Twelve astronauts made their way there on six space missions.

The Moon is littered with wreckage from failed landings over the years. Astrobotic Technology is another U.S. company that tried to send a lander to the Moon last month. The spacecraft never made it. Due to a leak, controllers canceled the mission. The spacecraft burned up in Earth’s atmosphere on its way back. But the company was among the first to congratulate Intuitive Machines on its success.

Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus says, “I know this was a nail-biter, but we are on the surface and we are transmitting.”

Odie is a scrapper,” mission director Tim Crain said late Thursday via X.

Praise Him, Sun and Moon. Praise Him, all you shining stars! — Psalm 148:3