Intuitive Machines' private Odysseus moon lander on track for Feb. 22 lunar landing

The voyaging Odysseus remains on course for a moon landing this week.

The Odysseus moon lander, built by Houston company Intuitive Machines, completed two engine burns in deep space on Feb. 16 and Feb. 18 and is sailing on the right course through space, the company said on X. The mission lifted off on a a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket early Feb. 15 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and all systems and science are healthy as it makes its way towards the moon.

But the lander will soon be put to the test. "Odysseus' largest challenge to date," officials added in the update thread, will be "lunar orbit insertion," which is expected to take place Wednesday (Feb. 21). The engine firing will put Odysseus in orbit around the moon in preparation for landing the following day, Thursday (Feb. 22), at 5:30 p.m. EST (2230 GMT).

Live Webcast: Watch Intuitive Machines' Odysseus attempt historic moon landing

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Odysseus aims to be the first private moon lander to safely reach the surface of the moon, following a few unsuccessful attempts by other companies in recent years. It also may be the first United States lander since the Apollo 17 crewed mission of December 1972.

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Its landing site is a tiny crater roughly 190 miles (300 kilometers) from the moon's south pole, about where NASA hopes to place astronauts later in the 2020s under the agency's Artemis program of lunar exploration. Artemis 3 is now scheduled to make the historic landing in 2026 or so, following a recent delay for several technical reasons.

The 12 payloads on board Odysseus include six NASA instruments as part of the agency's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, or CLPS. This program aims to fly NASA science payloads to the moon on a set of private landers, to scout ahead of Artemis missions.

The NASA science experiments onboard the lander will investigate matters ranging from precision landing technology to looking at how Odysseus' exhaust plume affects the regolith (rock and dirt) underneath it as it flies to the surface. Private science is on board as well, such as an investigation of insulating clothing by Columbia Sportswear.

NASA's Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume Surface Studies, or SCALPSS, will collect imagery of the interaction between the moon's surface and Intuitive Machines' Nova-C lander. One of the four cameras is seen here. (Image credit: Intuitive Machines)

Odysseus, whose mission is known as IM-1, is the second CLPS mission to fly in 2024. Astrobotic flew the Peregrine lander into space on Jan. 8 on board the first launch of United Launch Alliance's Vulcan Centaur rocket

While its launch went well, a fuel leak aboard Peregrine forced controllers to aim the lander instead for a controlled destruction in Earth's atmosphere on Jan. 18. 

Editor's note: This story was updated at 6:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 21 with the new target landing time of no earlier than 5:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 22.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace

  • wipster
    Well written article! Good luck Intuitive Machines. Their stock has already doubled this week and if they stick the landing, the sky is the limit! Exciting times!
    Reply