Private US spacecraft enters orbit around the Moon before landing attempt

21 February 2024, 19:14

Image provided by Intuitive Machines shows its Odysseus lunar lander with the Earth in the background
Moon Landing. Picture: PA

A smooth touchdown would put the US back in business on the Moon for the first time since 1972.

A private US lunar lander has reached the Moon and eased into a low orbit a day before it will attempt an even greater feat – landing on its surface.

A smooth touchdown would put the US back in business on the Moon for the first time since Nasa astronauts closed out the Apollo programme in 1972. The company, if successful, would also become the first private outfit to ace a Moon landing.

Launched last week, Intuitive Machines’ lander fired its engine on the back side of the Moon while out of contact with Earth. Flight controllers at the company’s Houston headquarters had to wait until the spacecraft emerged to learn whether the lander was in orbit or hurtling aimlessly away.

Intuitive Machines’ lunar lander separating from the rocket’s upper stage and heading toward the Moon
Intuitive Machines’ lunar lander separating from the rocket’s upper stage and heading toward the Moon (SpaceX -NASA TV via AP)

Intuitive Machines confirmed its lander, nicknamed Odysseus, was circling the Moon with experiments from Nasa and other clients. The lander is part of a Nasa programme to kickstart the lunar economy; the space agency is paying 118 million dollars to get its experiments on the Moon on this mission.

On Thursday, controllers will lower the orbit from just under 60 miles to six miles – a crucial manoeuvre occurring again on the Moon’s far side – before aiming for a touchdown near the Moon’s south pole. It is a dicey place to land with all the craters and cliffs, but deemed a prime location for astronauts since the permanently shadowed craters are believed to hold frozen water.

The Moon is littered with wreckage from failed landings. Some missions never even got that far. Another US company – Astrobotic Technology – tried to send a lander to the Moon last month, but it did not get there because of a fuel leak.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Italy Israel Venice Biennale

Artist refuses to open Israeli pavilion at Venice Biennale until ceasefire

Nigel Farare pictured during the NatCon Conference

Police poised to shut down National Conservatism conference where Farage and Braverman are to speak

A flooded street in Orenburg, Russia

More homes flooded in Russian region bordering Kazakhstan as river levels rise

Australia Church Stabbing

Tensions rise in Australia after bishop and priest hurt in church knife attack

India Kashmir Boat Capsized

At least six dead as boat capsizes in Indian-controlled Kashmir

Greece Olympics Paris Flame Lighting

Paris Olympics flame is lit at Greek cradle of ancient games

Denmark Fire

Fire rages through historic Stock Exchange in Copenhagen

Arabian Peninsula Rain

Heavy rains lash UAE as death toll in Oman flooding rises to 18

Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley has spoken out following the attack

Sydney church asks for prayers for 'perpetrator' following attack which left bishop in hospital

Music Library of Congress

ABBA, Blondie and Biggie enter US National Recording Registry

China Germany

German chancellor says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens global security

Denmark's historic stock exchange erupted into flames

Copenhagen's historic stock exchange goes up in flames as footage shows moment iconic spire collapses

Australia Church Stabbing

Knife attack against bishop and priest being treated as terrorism, police say

Inside the health retreat in Australia

Suspected 'mushroom' drink poisoning at Australian health retreat as woman dies and two others are rushed to hospital

Trump Hush Money

Trump to return to court after first day of trial ends with no jurors picked

The attacker is 15, police say

Sydney church stabbing declared a terror attack ‘motivated by religious extremism’ - as teenage boy arrested