GENERICO.ruScienceUS returns to the moon for the first time in more than half a century: “Giant Leap”

US returns to the moon for the first time in more than half a century: “Giant Leap”

The Odyssey spacecraft touched down after a 73-minute descent near the moon's south pole

The United States returned to the lunar surface for the first time in more than 50 years after a privately built spacecraft The Odyssey spacecraft completed a 73-minute descent from orbit and landed near the south pole of the Moon.

The Odyssey spacecraft landed after a 73-minute descent near the south pole of the Moon

Amid celebrations of what NASA called a “giant leap forward,” there was no immediate confirmation of status or condition lander, except that it reached the planned landing site in the Malapert A crater.

But later, Texas-based Intuitive Machines, which built the first commercial lunar landing vehicle, said the craft had “turned upright and began sending data.”

A statement on Platform X said mission managers were “working.” on transmitting the first images from the lunar surface.” Thursday's so-called “soft landing,” which Steve Altemus, the company's founder, had given only an 80% chance of success, was intended to usher in a new era of lunar exploration as NASA is working on a mission planned for late 2026 to send people back there.

“Welcome to the Moon,” Altemus said upon landing, when the lunar landing at 5:23 p.m. was eventually confirmed, after about 10 minutes during which the Odyssey was out of contact.

It was the first time any American-made spacecraft had landed on the Moon since NASA's last crewed visit, the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972, and the first visit by a commercial vehicle since the failure of Peregrine One last month. one partnership between the space agency and the private company Astrobotic.

“Today, for the first time in more than half a century, the United States returned to the Moon. Today, for the first time in human history, a commercial company, an American company, has launched and led a mission there,” said Bill Nelson, NASA administrator.

There was no video of the Odyssey's fully autonomous descent, which slowed to about 2.2 mph at 33 feet above the surface. But the camera, designed by students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, was designed to be dropped and filmed just before landing, and NASA's cameras were set to photograph the ground from the spacecraft.

Nova-C's 4-length hexagonal lander The .3 meter, affectionately nicknamed Odie by Intuitive Machines employees, is part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, in which the agency contracts with private partners primarily to support the Artemis program.

NASA has committed $118 million to get the rocket off the ground, and Intuitive Machines is funding another $130 million ahead of its Feb. 15 launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Elon Musk's SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The IM-1 mission, like the doomed Peregrine project, carries a payload of scientific equipment designed to collect data about the lunar environment, specifically the rocky region chosen as the landing site for NASA's crewed Artemis III mission, planned for two years .

It's a dangerous area—”pockmarked with all these craters,” Nelson says—but it was chosen because it is believed to be rich in frozen water, which could help support a permanent lunar base that is crucial for future human missions to Mars.

Last year, scientists announced that they believe tiny glass beads scattered across the lunar surface potentially contain “billions of tons of water” that could be recovered and used in future missions.

The risk is worth it. Nelson told CNN on Thursday “to see if there is water in abundance. Because if there is water, then there is rocket fuel: hydrogen and oxygen. And we could have a gas station at the south pole of the moon.”

The solar-powered lander has a planned lifespan of just seven days before the landing site, located about 186 miles from the moon's south pole, moves into Earth's shadow. But NASA hopes that will be enough time to analyze how the soil there responded to the impact of the landing.

Other instruments will focus on the effects of space weather on the lunar surface, while a network of markers for communication will be deployed and navigation.

“Powered by Intuitive Machines and launched on a SpaceX rocket equipped with many of NASA's science instruments, Odysseus embodies the dream of a new adventure in science, innovation and American leadership in space,” said Nelson.

With help Artemis, NASA's lunar return program that also envisions long-term crewed missions to Mars over the next two decades, the US is racing to get ahead of Russia and China, which are planning their own lunar landings, The Guardian writes.

Only the US has previously landed astronauts on six Apollo missions between 1969 and 1972, while five countries have deployed unmanned spacecraft. Japan joined the United States, Russia, China and India last month when its intelligent lunar lander (Slim) made a successful, if awkward, landing after a three-month flight.

Two more are planned for later this year launch of Intuitive Machines, including an ice drill to extract ingredients for rocket fuel and another Nova-C lander containing a small NASA rover and four small robots that will explore conditions on the surface.

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