Odysseus Makes History: Soft Landing on Moon Ends 50-Year American Lunar Hiatus

Odysseus

The United States marked a historic occasion with the gentle touchdown of the Odysseus spacecraft on the Lunar South Pole on the Moon on Thursday, ending a 50-year gap since the last American lunar landing. Developed by Intuitive Machines (IM), a private space company, the Nova-C lander not only accomplished this feat but also secured the title of the first privately owned spacecraft to successfully reach the lunar surface.

This event marked the first soft landing by an American spacecraft on the moon since the conclusion of the Apollo program in 1972. The NoVA-C lander is the second lander to touch down on the lunar south pole after India’s Chandrayaan-3 in August 2023. India conducted studies for over 14 days before the lander went to sleep mode.

Interestingly, Intuitive Machines took to X (formerly Twitter) and revealed that the spacecraft is upright and starting to send data after troubleshooting communications. It’s clear that there was a communication failure but the team managed to fix the problem. Intuitive Machines, which is behind the design and development of the Nova-C lander only showed the mission control center during the live stream. The technical data was not streamed live as with India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission. The company disclosed that the team is working to downlink the first images from the lunar surface.

The Odysseus landing came after India’s successful lunar mission in August 2023, wherein the Chandrayaan-3 lander achieved the milestone of being the first Indian spacecraft to safely land on the moon. India further made history by deploying a robotic rover to explore the lunar South Pole, a previously uncharted region in the 21st century.

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During a webcast, Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus declared, “We are on the surface, and we are transmitting. Welcome to the moon.” While the status of the lander is yet to be confirmed, the company has established contact with the moon. The Odysseus spacecraft touched down in the vicinity of Malapert A, a crater near the moon’s south pole.

NASA described this site as a “(A) relatively flat and safe region within the heavily cratered southern highlands on the side of the Moon visible from Earth.” Despite facing communication challenges before landing and missing the expected landing time, a flight controller from Intuitive Machines reported that the lander was “not dead yet,” having received a “faint signal.” The United States stands as the only country to have sent humans to the moon, with the last manned mission being Apollo 17 in 1972.

NASA’s choice of the landing site for Intuitive Machines’ inaugural mission was driven by a desire to gain insights into the lunar environment and understand communications in this area. Additionally, NASA plans to explore the lunar south pole as it deems it an ideal location for a future astronaut base.

Anand Narayanaswamy is the editor-in-chief of Netans. He was recognized as a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for 9 years (2002 to 2011) and again as a Microsoft MVP in Surface under Windows and Devices in January 2024. He worked as a Chief Technical Editor with ASPAlliance and was part of ASPInsider program. Anand has published several articles and reviews related to various software and hardware products for various software and technology related websites. He is also active on social media and also participates as an Influencer for various brands. Anand can be reached at admin@netans.com