Time in Yerevan: 11:07,   25 April 2024

First U.S. moon landing since 1972 as private spacecraft touches down on lunar surface

First U.S. moon landing since 1972 as private spacecraft touches down on lunar surface

YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 23, ARMENPRESS. Intuitive Machines' Odysseus lander touched down on the moon Thursday after a historic, nail-biting descent following a last-minute navigation sensor malfunction, becoming the first U.S.-built spacecraft to stick a moon landing in more than 50 years and the first ever by a private company, CBS News reports.

After delaying the final descent by one orbit to press an experimental NASA navigation sensor into service — and to test hurriedly-written software patches to route its data to the lander's flight computer — Odysseus settled to a touchdown at 6:23 p.m. EST near a crater known as Malapert A some 186 miles from the south pole of the moon.

Engineers at Intuitive Machines' Nova control center in Houston expected it to take up to two minutes or so to re-establish communications after landing, but the expected signal was not immediately found.

Finally, a faint signal was picked up by a communications antenna in the United Kingdom, indicating the spacecraft had, in fact, survived the touchdown.

"What we can confirm, without a doubt, is our equipment is on the surface of the moon, and we are transmitting," Mission Director Tim Crain told the flight control team. "So congratulations, IM team! We'll see how much more we can get from that."

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson was quick to congratulate Intuitive Machines, SpaceX for the Falcon 9 rocket that launched Odysseus last week from the Kennedy Space Center, and the agency's own commercial moon program, saying they "aced the landing of a lifetime."

"Today, for the first time in more than a half century, the U..S has returned to the moon," he said. "Today, for the first time in the history of humanity, a commercial company, an American company, launched and led the voyage up there. And today is a day that shows the power and promise of NASA's commercial partnerships."

He concluded with, "What a triumph! ... This feat is a giant leap forward for all of humanity."

But a detailed assessment of the health of the spacecraft and its payloads awaited analysis of telemetry. Finally, two hours after touchdown, the company reported that "after troubleshooting communications, flight controllers have confirmed Odysseus is upright and starting to send data. Right now, we are working to downlink the first images from the lunar surface."

The successful lunar landing marked the first touchdown by a U.S.-built spacecraft since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972 and the first ever by a privately-built spacecraft.


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