Space Successfully Launches Odysseus Lunar Lander, Here’s Everything You need to learn about this mission

In the early morning of Thursday, February 15, SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches Odysseus robotic lunar lander built by the Houston-based company Intuitive Machines from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Therefore, if everything goes according to plan, Odysseus’ lunar lander will successfully land near the lunar south pole on Feb. 22.

If the spacecraft successfully touched down on the moon, it will become the first-ever private spacecraft to land on the lunar surface. The success of this mission will also become a huge milestone for the United States as the country has not reached the moon since the era of the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

“It is a profoundly humbling moment for all of us at Intuitive Machines,” Trent Martin, the company’s vice president of space systems, said during a prelaunch press conference on Tuesday (Feb. 13).  

“The opportunity to return the United States to the moon for the first time since 1972 demands a hunger to explore, and that’s at the heart of everyone at Intuitive Machines,” he added.

How SpaceX successfully Launched the Odysseus Lunar Lander

The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket that carried Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus moon lander touches down at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Feb. 15, 2024. (Image credit: NASA TV)

After postponing the mission from Feb. 14 to Feb 15, SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon 9 rocket from KSC’s Pad 39A today at 1:05 a.m. EST (0605 GMT). At about 7.5 minutes into the launch, the rocket’s first stage returned to Earth and made a vertical touchdown at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

This successful touchdown is the 18th launch and landing for this particular booster rocket, SpaceX mission description reveals. After the safe touchdown, the Falcon 9’s upper stage continued to accelerate into the sky and later deployed the Odysseus lunar lander into lunar transfer orbit at about 48.5 minutes into the mission.

A few minutes later, the 1,490-pound (675-kilogram) lander made the first contact with the mission control team from the lunar orbit. The Odysseus lunar lander is about the size of a British telephone booth. The lunar lander will soon proceed to start making its approach toward the lunar orbit and it will take about six days to reach.

Odysseus will proceed to gear up to make its historic attempt. Intuitive Machine reveals that Odysseus will land at Malapert A, a small crater that is about 190 miles (300 kilometers) from the lunar south pole. In addition, NASA reveals that it will be watching the lunar touchdown with great interest as it will play a crucial role in its future mission to the moon. The current mission is named IM-1 and it will become the first private mission to touch down on the lunar surface.

NASA’s Interest in the Lunar South Pole

NASA contracted Intuitive Machine to deliver scientific instruments on the moon during its IM-1 through its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. These instruments are built to obtain data that will support NASA’s Artemis program. The American Space Agency hopes to establish a permanent human presence on the lunar south pole towards the end of this decade.

NASA and other agencies are hoping to land humans on the lunar south pole because of its richness in water ice, and other nutrients. NASA Artemis astronauts will use the ice water to refuel spacecraft, create oxygen, and sustain themselves on the lunar surface. In addition, Odysseus is carrying six NASA instruments valued at $118 million aboard its IM-1.

NASA revealed that it added an extra $11 million to build the scientific hardware for the mission. As Peregrine has failed to land on the moon, we all should be expecting Odysseus to attain such a milestone for the US and the entire world.

“We’ve always viewed these initial CLPS deliveries as being kind of a learning experience, where we’re all going to learn and react to how they go,” Joel Kearns, deputy associate administrator for Exploration, Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters, said during Tuesday’s prelaunch telecon.

“We’re learning from every attempt — not only that we have in the U.S., but we also watch the attempts being made by some of our allies, and some of our competitors,” he added.

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