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US returns to lunar surface for first time in over 50 years with Odysseus

 odysseus moon landing

US returned to the lunar surface for the first time in more than 50 years with a privately-built spacecraft named 'Odysseus' - like the Greek mythology hero - capped a nail-biting 73-minute descent from orbit with a touchdown near the moon’s south pole.

 

“What a triumph. Odysseus has taken the moon. This feat is a giant leap forward for all of humanity.” Nasa hailed.

While Intuitive Machines, the Texas-based company that built the first commercial craft to land on the moon, announced that 'Odysseus' was “upright and starting to send data”.

The statement on X said mission managers were “working to downlink the first images from the lunar surface”.

The so-called “soft landing” on Thursday, which Steve Altemus, the company’s founder, had given only an 80% chance of succeeding, was designed to open a new era of lunar exploration as Nasa works towards a scheduled late-2026 mission to send humans back there.

“Welcome to the moon,” Altemus said when touchdown when the 5.23pm touchdown was eventually confirmed, after about 10 minutes in which Odysseus was out of contact.

It was the first time any US-built spacecraft had landed on the moon since Nasa’s most recent crewed visit, the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972, and the first visit by commercial vehicle following last month’s failure of Peregrine One, another partnership between the space agency and a private company, Astrobotic.

“Today, for the first time in more than a half century, the US has returned to the moon. Today, for the first time in the history of humanity, a commercial company, an American company, launched and led the voyage up there,” Bill Nelson, the Nasa administrator, said.

Two further Intuitive Machines launches are scheduled for later this year, including an ice drill to extract ingredients for rocket fuel, and another Nova-C lander containing a small Nasa rover and four small robots that will explore surface conditions.