US achieves first Moon landing in 50 years with private spacecraft

Intuitive Machines announces the successful landing of its IM-1 lander Odysseus on the Moon, with the spacecraft now transmitting a faint yet unmistakable signal.

A private lander has touched down on the Moon but managed just a weak signal back, as flight controllers scrambled to gain better contact with the first US spacecraft to reach the lunar surface in more than 50 years.

Despite the spotty communication on Thursday, Intuitive Machines, the company that built and managed the craft, confirmed that it had landed. There was no immediate word from the company on the condition — or even the exact location — of the lander.

The company ended its live webcast soon after confirming a touchdown.

Tension mounted in the company ’s command center in Houston, as controllers awaited a signal from the spacecraft some 400,000 kilometres away, which arrived about 10 minutes later.

"We're evaluating how we can refine that signal," said mission director Tim Crain. "But we can confirm, without a doubt, that our equipment is on the surface of the moon."

The lander, Odysseus, descended from a Moon-skimming orbit and guided itself toward the surface, searching for a relatively flat spot among all the cliffs and craters near the south pole.

First US Moon landing since Apollo 17

The lander’s choreographed descent was the first for the US since 1972, when Apollo 17’s Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt left the last bootprints in the desolate gray dust.

Intuitive Machines has become the first private business to successfully pull off a lunar landing, a feat achieved by only five countries. Another company gave it a shot last month, but never made it to the moon, and the lander crashed back to Earth.

Odysseus, carrying NASA experiments, reached the moon on Wednesday, six days after rocketing from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The six-footed carbon fiber and titanium lander — towering 4.3 metres — is carrying out six experiments for NASA.

The space agency gave the company $118 million to build and fly the lander, part of its effort to commercialise lunar deliveries ahead of the planned return of astronauts in a few years.

Intuitive Machines' entry is the latest in a series of landing attempts by countries and private outfits looking to explore the Moon and, if possible, capitalise on it. Japan scored a lunar landing last month, joining earlier triumphs by Russia, US, China and India.


Source: TRT