America returns to the Moon after 52 years: Odysseus, the first lander from a private company, lands on the moon


By John

Someone defined it as “a great step by private individuals”, paraphrasing the phrase uttered by Neil Arnstrong during the moon landing on 20 July 1969, and certainly the arrival on lunar soil of the first vehicle built by a private company is a historic event , symbol of the new race to the Moon that looks to exploration and science, but also to the Lunar Space Economy. The record was won by Odysseus, the lander built by the Texan company Intuitive Machine, which is also the first American vehicle to return to the Moon 52 years after the last mission of the Apollo program.

Not since December 11, 1972 has a vehicle built in the United States landed on the moon. Launched on February 15th, Odysseus entered lunar orbit on February 21st, after having traveled one million kilometers without causing any problems. The delicate phase of the descent also went according to plan, which however was followed by 15 interminable minutes because no signal came from the vehicle.

Multiple receiving stations on Earth made a relay in hopes of catching the signal. Tense faces in the Im-1 mission control center, but finally the signal from Odysseus' main antenna reached Earth, albeit very weak.

However, it was enough to make people breathe a sigh of relief and unleash increasingly louder and more convinced applause. “We can confirm without a doubt that our vehicle is on the surface of the Moon and that we are transmitting,” flight director Tim Crain said as soon as the signal was received. We are now awaiting updates on the lander's condition.

That of Odysseus is the first success of a private mission after the failures of the Peregrine lander of the American company Astrobotic last January and those of the Hakuto-R M1 landers of the Japanese ispace in 2023 and of Beresheet, of the Israeli company SpaceIL in 2019.

However, four countries have landed one of their vehicles on the Moon: after the United States, Russia, China, India and Japan managed to land on the Moon. The private moon landing is also announced as the first of a series because the Odysseus lander belongs to Intuitive Machine's Nova-C class, which already includes other vehicles that the company is preparing to launch. Even Astrobotic now has a fleet of vehicles to participate in the new race to the Moon.

“Odysseus has a new home,” Intuitive Machine wrote on This crater, with a diameter of about 69 kilometers, is near the Malapert massif, one of the 13 sites considered for NASA's Artemis III mission.

As happened with Astrobotic's Peregrine lander, Odysseus is also financed in part by the program launched in 2018 by NASA for commercial flights, the Commercial Lunar Payload Services and, like the other mission, has six NASA instruments on board which will collect useful data for planning future missions of the Artemis program, intended to bring astronauts to the Moon again.

Rosler, for example, has the task of measuring cosmic radiation, which is not shielded on the Moon because there is no atmosphere, while Lra, Lra II and Ndl are designed to help spacecraft determine their position, for example in view of future moon landings; Rfmg's goal is to measure propellant levels, while Ln-1 is a sort of beacon for vehicles arriving or departing from the Moon.

There are also six commercial cargoes brought on board the lander by companies, from thermal protection material developed by Columbia to Lonestar Data Holdings' technology demonstrator to store and transmit data to and from the Moon and Lunaprise, a sort of encyclopedia of human knowledge collected by Galactic Legacy Labs. Also on board are 125 miniature sculptures by Jeff Koons.