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US  Achieves First Moon Landing In 50 Years With Texas Built Spacecraft

However, concerns have come up that the craft may have been impaired or obstructed

 In a historic achievement, a spacecraft developed and operated by Texas-based company Intuitive Machines successfully landed near the moon’s south pole on Thursday, marking the first U.S. touchdown on the lunar surface in over fifty years and the first landing accomplished by the private sector.

NASA, which outfitted the vehicle with several research instruments, celebrated the landing as a significant milestone in its objective to deploy a fleet of commercially operated spacecraft for scientific exploration missions to the moon. These missions are intended to precede the planned return of astronauts to the moon later in this decade.

Despite the jubilation surrounding the landing, initial communication challenges emerged, sparking concerns about potential impairments or obstructions affecting the vehicle’s functionality.

The uncrewed robot lander, named Odysseus, made its descent at approximately 6:23 p.m. EST (0023 WAT), as announced by both the company and NASA during a joint webcast from Intuitive Machines’ mission operations centre in Houston.

The landing marked the culmination of a tense final approach and descent, during which an issue with the spacecraft’s autonomous navigation system arose, necessitating ground engineers to implement an untested solution in the eleventh hour.

Following an anticipated radio blackout, it took some time to re-establish communication with the spacecraft and ascertain its status some 239,000 miles (384,000 km) from Earth. Upon regaining contact, the signal was faint, confirming the successful touchdown but leaving mission control initially uncertain about the precise condition and orientation of the vehicle.

Tim Crain, Intuitive Machines’ mission director, conveyed the team’s excitement, stating, “Our equipment is on the surface of the moon, and we are transmitting, so congratulations IM team. We’ll see what more we can get from that.”

Subsequently, the company confirmed Odysseus’ upright position and its commencement of data transmission through a message posted on the social media platform X.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson lauded Thursday’s achievement as a “triumph,” proclaiming, “Odysseus has taken the moon.”

According to the webcast, the spacecraft was anticipated to have landed at a crater named Malapert A near the moon’s south pole. The mission did not include live video coverage of the landing, which occurred one day after the spacecraft entered lunar orbit and a week following its launch from Florida.

Thursday’s successful landing marked the first controlled descent to the lunar surface by a U.S. spacecraft since Apollo 17 in 1972, when NASA’s final crewed moon mission, with astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, touched down.

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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