Watch Intuitive Machines’ Private Odysseus Lander Attempt First Historic Moon Landing

For the first time since 1972, an American Private moon lander named Odysseus lander will be making its first moon landing attempt today. This historic touchdown would commence NASA’s official plan to establish a permanent human presence on the moon as part of its Artemis missions.

Intuitive Machines, a Houston-based company built the Odysseus as a 14-foot-tall (4.3 meters) lunar lander to land and operate on the lunar south pole. The sophisticated lander will be making its attempt to land close to the lunar south pole today Feb. 22 at exactly 5:30 p.m. EST (2230 GMT).

The good news is that you can watch the private company make this historic moon landing today on NASA’s TV or The Coverage for this historic milestone will commence at 4:00 p.m. EST (2100 GMT).

How Odysseus Lander commenced its journey

On Feb. 15, the Odysseus lander was launched on a six-day journey to the moon atop SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The lunar lander carried 12 payloads onboard including six NASA’s science and technology instruments. NASA paid the company about $118 million for the ride of these instruments to the moon.

After traveling for more than 620,000 miles (1,000,000 meters), the lander finally conducted aced maneuvers yesterday (Feb.21) to enter a tight circular orbit around the moon. The telephone-booth-sized spacecraft entered the tight circular orbit around the moon to prepare for its landing attempt today.

“We’re very excited, but we’re also very nervous,” said Jack Burns, a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who’s the principal investigator for one of the NASA science instruments onboard Odysseus. “The success has been mixed in going to the surface of the moon.”

If everything works according to plan, Odysseus will eventually touch down on the rim of the small crater named Malapert A. Malapert A is about 190 miles (300 km) from the lunar south pole on the Earth-facing side. Since no private moon lander has ever touched down the lunar surface before, today’s successful landing will be historic and widely celebrated across the globe.

Intuitive Machines is not the first private company to make this landing attempt. Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander which was launched earlier last month could not succeed in reaching the moon as it encountered propellant leakage. The handlers of the Peregrine ended up crashing the lunar lander back into Earth’s atmosphere on Jan. 18.

The Israeli Beresheet and Japanese Hakuto-R landers also reached the lunar orbit. However, they both crashed into the moon during touchdown attempts in April 2019 and April 2023 respectively. We should hope that Odysseus’ lander also known as IM-1 will succeed with its first landing attempt.

How the Landing Will Take Place

The company chooses two landing sites to safely land its lander. These sites include Malapert A, which was the second option, and Oceanus Procellarum as the first option because it is the largest lunar basaltic pain. Oceanus Procellarum is also designated as the potential landing site for NASA’s Artemis program which NASA hopes to return humans to the lunar surface in September 2026.

However, Intuitive Machine later changed its mind last year by deciding to use the second landing location in case Odysseus crashed during the landing attempt. Any crash on this Artemis landing region will surely contaminate the Oceanus Procellarum. This implies that Malapert A is the perfect destination to safely land the lander today.

“Landing near Malapert A also will help mission planners understand how to communicate and send data back to Earth from a location that is low on the lunar horizon,” NASA said in a statement at the time.

The Malapert A region is safe to land on as it is relatively flat. Odysseus will attempt to land on the region which is about the size of an American football field, Burns reveals. Once the descent commences, the lunar lander will basically depend on real-time images and onboard navigation software to accurately adjust its speed and safely touch down gently near the crater.

“It’s a new place to land,” Burns told “I think Intuitive Machines has done everything it can to prepare.”

How Long Will the Odysseus Lander Stay Active On The Lunar Surface

Intuitive Machines reveals that its Odysseus surface mission will last for about half a lunar daytime, which is about seven Earth days. (Note that it takes the moon about 27 Earth days to rotate once around its axis.)

“Our lunar day is going to be a little bit shorter than it is at other places,” Burns said. “But we can do a lot of good science during that time.”

Intuitive Machines actually wants the IM-1 lander to stay much longer than on the lunar surface. However, since the Sun is already up at Malapert A even before the arrival of Odysseus, it will last for only seven Earth days. Scientists revealed that the landing region of Odysseus has a surface temperature of over 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius) during the day.

Hence, radiators built as part of the lunar lander will protect it from overheating. Since the powerful moon lander cannot stay active during the hostile lunar night, its electronics will stop operating. However, scientists remain optimistic about continuing observation until the lander finally runs out of battery. Let’s hope that Intuitive Machines finally pulls this great shot for humankind.

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