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An American probe lands on the Moon

Photo: Intuitive Machines via Agence France-Presse Intuitive Machines' lander, named Odysseus, passes over the Moon.

Lucie Aubourg – Agence France-Presse in Washington

February 22, 2024

  • United States

It's a big step for the space industry: a probe from the American company Intuitive Machines landed on the Moon on Thursday, marking the first landing of an American device in more than 50 years, and a first for a private company.

“We can confirm without a doubt that our equipment is on the surface of the Moon, and that we are transmitting” a signal, Tim Crain, manager at Intuitive Machines, said during the company's live video.

The latter then confirmed on

The expected time of the moon landing was 5:23 p.m. Houston, Texas time, where the company's control room is located (6:23 p.m. Quebec).

The Nova-C moon lander, which notably carries NASA scientific instruments, measures a little over four meters high. He took off last week from Florida.

The descent was the most feared stage of the mission, named IM-1.

Lasers that would normally allow the device to guide itself did not work, but a backup solution was able to be used: a NASA instrument on board which was, originally, only to be tested during the mission .

Around ten minutes before landing, a significant thrust from the engine served to slow down Nova-C, which was previously traveling at no less than 1,800 meters per second.

During the final descent, the probe was completely autonomous.

Images are now expected, including those from a small camera-equipped craft, developed by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which was to be ejected from the lander at the last moment to capture from the outside the moon landing.

American return

An American aircraft had not landed on the Moon since the end of the legendary Apollo program in 1972.

“For the first time in more than half a century, the United States is back on the Moon,” NASA boss Bill Nelson said in a video. And “for the first time in human history, a private company, an American company, took off and led the journey up there.”

India and Japan recently successfully landed on the moon through their national space agencies, becoming the fourth and fifth countries to do so, after the Soviet Union, the United States and China.

But several companies – Israeli, Japanese and American – have so far failed to reproduce the same feat.

Lunar South Pole

The location that Intuitive Machines was targeting is located about 300 kilometers from the South Pole of the Moon, a crater named Malapert A.

The lunar South Pole is of interest because there is water there in the form of ice, which could be exploited. NASA wants to send its astronauts there from 2026 with its Artemis missions, and it is in particular to prepare them that it is seeking to study this still little-explored region more closely.

“What kind of dust or dirt is there ? How cold or hot is it ? What is the radiation ? These are things you want to know first to send the first human explorers,” explained NASA official Joel Kearns.

For this phase of exploration, NASA is using its brand new program, called CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services). Instead of developing ships for the Moon itself, the American space agency commissioned private companies to take its scientific equipment there.

Intuitive Machines is one of the selected companies, and its contract with NASA for this first mission is worth $118 million.

The objective is to reduce costs for the public agency, to be able to make the trip more frequently, but also to develop a lunar economy. And this despite the risks of failure.

A first mission of the program, led by the American company Astrobotic, failed to reach the Moon last month.

Seven days of activity

The Intuitive Machines moon landing craft, the copy of which used for this mission is called Odysseus, also contains six private cargoes. Among them: sculptures by contemporary artist Jeff Koons representing the phases of the Moon.

NASA has six scientific instruments on board.

One of them must, for example, study lunar plasma (a layer of gas charged with electricity) and measure radio waves coming from the Sun and other planets.

Odysseus, which is powered by its solar panels, should now operate for around seven days, before night sets in on the lunar South Pole.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116