The Odyssey module successfully takes off from Florida on its way to the first moon landing by the U.S. in over 50 years

Reuters

The Odysseus module from the private company Intuitive Machines successfully lifted off from Florida on Thursday bound for the Moon, in what is expected to be the first U.S. moon landing in over fifty years since Apollo 17.

The launch of mission IM-1 took place at the scheduled time, 1:05 a.m., and is expected to land on the lunar surface next Thursday, February 22.

The launch had been postponed early Wednesday morning due to anomalies during the methane loading process.

The module, carrying NASA instruments, aims to achieve the first soft landing by a U.S. company on the lunar surface, according to Texas-based company Intuitive Machines.


The primary goal of this mission is to deliver scientific instruments and technological demonstrations to the lunar south pole, an unexplored region.

Odysseus travels aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that took off without issues early this morning from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in central Florida.

Once in orbit, this Nova-C series lander module, equipped with an environmentally friendly propulsion system using a mixture of liquid oxygen and methane, separated from the rocket to head towards the Moon.

After the moon landing, the plan is for operations to extend for about seven days before lunar night arrives at the south pole, rendering Odysseus inoperable.

Specifically, the descent will be in the vicinity of the Malapert massif, about 300 kilometers from the lunar south pole, an area full of uncertainty, according to NASA experts.

Researchers believe the area is composed of material from the lunar highlands, similar to the landing site of Apollo 16.

This is the second mission of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, following Peregrine, and is also part of the Artemis program to return to the Moon.


Last January, the Peregrine module from Astrobotic Technology failed in its attempt to land on the Moon with NASA and other commercial payloads due to fuel supply issues, among other problems.

According to Intuitive Machines, the mission aims to create an economic platform that will carry NASA scientific instruments to the Moon, as well as commercial cargo, paving the way for a sustainable human presence on the natural satellite and its surroundings.

The landing site is one of the 13 regions NASA is considering for the Artemis III mission, which will be the first crewed landing mission of that program and the first crewed flight of the SpaceX Starship HLS lander module.

Among NASA's instruments carried by Odysseus is the RFMG, which provides a significantly more precise measurement of the fuel tank's fill level, a crucial issue for future long-duration missions.

It also has an instrument, SCALPSS, with four cameras to capture sound and still images of the dust column created by the lander module's engine when it begins its descent to the lunar surface until it shuts off.

NASA is also sending four antennas and a low-frequency radio receiver system designed to study the dynamic energy environment near the lunar surface and determine how natural and human-generated activity near the surface interacts with scientific research.

This instrument, known as ROLSES, will also detect radio emissions from the Sun, Jupiter, and Earth, as well as dust impacting the lunar surface.

The team is joined by the NDL, a descent and landing sensor based on light detection and ranging (LIDAR). This instrument operates on the same principles as radar but uses pulses from a laser emitted through three optical telescopes.

The instrument will measure the vehicle's speed and direction and the distance to the surface with high precision during the descent to landing.

It also features a collection of eight retroreflectors (LRA) that enable precision laser ranging, which is a measure of the distance between an orbiting or landing spacecraft and the reflector on the lander module.

The LRA is a passive optical instrument and will function as a permanent location marker on the Moon for the next few decades.

Finally, the LN-1 is a small flight hardware experiment the size of a CubeSat that integrates navigation and communication functions for autonomous navigation to support future orbital and surface operations.

Intuitive Machines has emphasized that IM-1 represents a crucial moment in private companies' involvement in the space race.

According to the company, the IM-1 mission also represents a monumental milestone in lunar exploration, rekindling human interest in the Moon after decades of hiatus.

The success of the IM-1 mission "will lay the groundwork for a thriving lunar economy, opening up new possibilities for research, commerce, and exploration, and bringing humanity's dream of becoming a multiplanetary species closer," it stated.