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How to Watch and What to Know: U.S. Moon Landing

On Wednesday, a lunar lander operated by a Houston-based company made significant progress toward its moon landing. Intuitive Machines proudly announced that its spacecraft, named Odysseus, successfully executed a critical engine burn, slowing down enough to enter a circular orbit approximately 57 miles above the moon’s surface.

Scheduled for Thursday, this anticipated landing aims to achieve a remarkable milestone: Odysseus becoming the first private spacecraft to softly touch down on the moon, marking the first American mission to do so since Apollo 17 in 1972.

When and How to Watch:

The exciting lunar touchdown is scheduled for Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Those interested can tune in to NASA TV, where coverage will commence at 4 p.m.

Where Will Odysseus Land?

Odysseus has its sights set on a flat plain located outside the Malapert A crater, positioned about 185 miles away from the moon’s south pole. This area is of particular interest due to its perpetual shadow and the potential presence of water ice.

The Landing Process:

To facilitate its safe landing, Odysseus will undergo a series of maneuvers. First, it will transition from a circular to an elliptical orbit, descending to a height of approximately six miles above the lunar surface. Operating autonomously, the spacecraft will utilize cameras and laser beams for navigation, ultimately pivoting upright for its final descent.

Mission Objectives on the Moon:

Equipped with solar panels for power, Odysseus carries six NASA instruments designed to perform various tasks, such as reflecting laser beams, measuring altitude, and analyzing radio signals.

Progress of the Mission:

The mission has seen notable success thus far, with Odysseus completing engine burns and successfully transmitting images of both Earth and the moon. The spacecraft’s journey commenced on February 15, propelled by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

About the Lander:

Odysseus is a hexagonal cylinder lander, standing at 14 feet tall and five feet wide. Weighing approximately 4,200 pounds, it features six sturdy landing legs.

Why Isn’t NASA Directly Involved?

Odysseus operates under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, reflecting a collaborative effort between private companies and the space agency. This approach allows for cost-effective lunar exploration while NASA focuses on its ambitious Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the moon.

In essence, Odysseus’s mission underscores the increasing role of private entities in space exploration, promising exciting advancements in lunar discovery and beyond.

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