Intuitive Machines moon lander sends home a haunting crater picture ahead of touch down today

Update for 7 pm ET: Touchdown! Intuitive Machines reports that its IM-1 lander Odysseus has landed on the moon and is transmitting a faint, but definite, signal. "Houston, Odysseus has found his new home," mission director Tim Crain said.
See our full landing story, video and photos.

The Odysseus lander from Intuitive Machines obtained this picture of the Bel’kovich K crater on Feb. 21, 2024. (Image credit: Intuitive Machines/X)

Hours ahead of its moon landing, Odysseus snapped a picture of a lunar crater.

The Intuitive Machines lander beamed home an image of the Bel’kovich K crater, a roughly 31-mile (50-kilometer) divot in the moon's northern equatorial highlands. Mountains in the center were "made when the crater was formed," officials wrote Wednesday (Feb. 21) on X, formerly Twitter.

Odysseus successfully entered lunar orbit on Wednesday following a crucial engine burn, and is slated to touch down near the moon's south pole on Thursday afternoon (Feb. 22) no earlier than 6:24 p.m. EST (2324 GMT). You can tune in to the landing live here at, courtesy of NASA, or directly via the space agency. Coverage will begin at 5:00 p.m. EST (2300 GMT).

Related: Missions to the moon: Past, present and future

If Odysseus makes it, the lander will be the first private machine to successfully soft land on the moon and the first American vehicle overall to do so since the crewed Apollo 17 mission achieved the feat in 1972. You can watch the attempt here at

Intuitive Machines' Odysseus lander beams home a selfie in lunar orbit on Feb. 21, 2024. (Image credit: Intuitive Machines)

The mission launched on Feb. 15 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, bringing along 12 payloads for lunar investigations. Six of those experiments are from NASA and associated with the agency's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, or CLPS.

NASA aims to use CLPS missions for science investigations ahead of the agency's Artemis program, which itself plans to put astronauts back on the moon in the 2020s and eventually establish a permanent base at the lunar south pole. The region is rich in water ice, which is useful for fueling and machinery.

One CLPS mission has already tried to reach the moon, but it didn't make it. Astrobotic's Peregrine lunar lander launched in January atop the first United Launch Alliance's Vulcan Centaur rocket. Peregrine, however, developed a fuel leak and instead was steered into Earth's atmosphere on Jan. 18.

Other private missions before Odysseus' IM-1 endeavor did indeed achieve lunar orbit before. Examples include Israel's Beresheet and Tokyo's Hakuto-R landers. Both missions, however, saw their spacecraft crash: Beresheet in April 2019 and Hakuto-R in April 2023.

This story was updated at 2:34 p.m. Feb. 22 with the updated landing time.

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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 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:

  • Rob77
    Best of luck to the lander - hope we can get some video footage of the descent and land (rather than just photos). Still boggles the mind how this day and age we still get only photos from all these space expeditions (I understand the data packets to send are big, but to use an aussie expression.... c'mon.....).
  • billslugg
    The problem is bandwidth. Space probes are short on power, have very narrow beam antennas, aren't able to keep them aimed properly during rapid descent maneuvers. An active aiming system to maintain lock on during descent would cost a lot of money, weight and power. They don't need it so they don't have it.
  • Red Cloud
    I don’t know who to contact but you guys need to know about this. Regarding your VideoFromSpace YouTube channel.
    Your IM-1 mission YouTube live stream chat and comments section are awash with conspiracy theory addicts calling everything "fake."
    The trolls realize there are absolutely no mods and treat it as open season, which encourages more trolling.
    Please pass this message on to the appropriate person.
    Thank you.