First lunar module owned by private company lands on Мoon: What is its mission?

February 23, 2024  09:48

The robotic spacecraft of Intuitive Machines has successfully reached the surface of the Moon, becoming the first private space vehicle to land on its surface. This achievement also marks the first American spacecraft to touch the lunar surface in the last fifty years since the completion of the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972.

The landing module, named Odysseus, touched down in the southern polar region of the Moon at 18:23 Eastern Time as part of the IM-1 mission. Approximately 15 minutes after the landing, controllers confirmed the receipt of a signal from the landing module.

Intuitive Machines delayed the descent by two hours to perform an additional orbit around the Moon. The company discovered that the laser rangefinders, used for precise landing, were not functioning correctly. As a solution, controllers loaded a software correction, allowing the landing module to use NASA's Doppler lidar as an alternative. Initially, this lidar was intended for technology demonstrations.

The private spacecraft's landing on the Moon marks the first of its kind in the history of lunar exploration by private companies.

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As part of the IM-1 mission, Intuitive Machines placed six useful payloads from NASA on the landing module, aimed at demonstrating various technologies. These payloads include a navigation Doppler lidar, a navigation beacon, a radio frequency fuel level sensor, and a camera to study the regolith plumes raised by the landing module's engine. Other useful payloads include a laser retroreflector and a radio astronomical instrument.

Additionally, onboard the Odysseus landing module are six useful payloads from various organizations and companies. Columbia Sportswear provided material to test the insulation of the fuel tank. Galactic Legacy Labs and Lonestar Data Holdings placed data archives on the landing module. Two small astronomical cameras from the International Association of Lunar Observatories are also installed on the module. Artist Jeff Koons contributed an artwork titled Phases of the Moon.

Another instrument on the module, developed by non-NASA entities, is the EagleCam, a camera designed by students from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. EagleCam is designed to be catapulted from the module during descent and capture images of this event.

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