The first US moon landing since 1972 is set to happen today as a spacecraft closes on the lunar surface.

Houston-based Intuitive Machines is ready Its Odysseus lander The first US-built spacecraft to touch down on the moon today, nail-biting one hour and 13 minutes from orbit. Moon landing More than 50 years and the first by a private company.

After some adjustments in the final hours, touchdown is now expected at 6:24pm EST.

After braking into an orbit tilted 80 degrees to the moon's equator, Odysseus' methane-fueled main engine burned shortly after 5 p.m. EST, lowering it to a point near the landing site 186 miles from the far end of orbit. Moon's South Pole.

Intuitive machines

After the intuitive engines chose to keep Odysseus in an extra orbit, the start of the descent was delayed by two hours to allow more time for pre-landing tests. Once down, on-board cameras and lasers are planned to scan the ground below to provide steering inputs to the lander's guidance system and help fine-tune the trajectory.

An hour later, at 6:12 p.m., the main engine is expected to re-ignite at an altitude of less than 20 miles, and is fired for the final 10 minutes, flipping Odysseus from horizontal to vertical. Down at 4 mph.

As the spacecraft descends 100 feet, an innovative camera set called the “Eagle Cam,” built by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students, will drop down and attempt to photograph the lander's final descent from the side. NASA cameras on the spacecraft photograph the ground directly below.

By the time Odysseus reaches about 33 feet above the surface, the main engine should have throttled down to a projected landing speed of about 2.2 mph—walking speed for senior citizens.

Touchdown is expected a week later at 6:24 PM near a crater called Malabert A Launched from Kennedy Space Center.

A camera on the Odysseus lander captured an image of the moon below the spacecraft after a critical engine fired Wednesday to brake it into lunar orbit.

Intuitive machines

Video from the lander's on-board cameras and Eagle Cam cannot be sent back to Earth in real time, but intuitive engines engineers at the company's Nova Control Center in Houston say they can verify touchdown in about 15 seconds. The first images are expected to be released within half an hour.

A successful lunar landing would mark the first touchdown by an American-built spacecraft since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic It had intended to earn that honor with its Peregrine lander last month, but the mission was derailed by a ruptured propellant tank shortly after the Jan. 9 launch. Two previous private moon attempts, One by Israel through another JapanIt also ended in failure.

Only the governments of the United States, the Soviet Union, China, India and Japan have successfully landed on the lunar surface. Japan's “SLIM” lander Partially successful with a touchdown on January 19.

Both Peregrine and Odysseus were funded by NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, or CLPS (pronounced CLIPS), designed to encourage private industry that NASA could then use to transport payloads to the Moon.

An artist's impression of the Odysseus lander of intuitive machines on the lunar surface.

Intuitive machines

The agency's goal is to help kickstart development of new technologies and collect the necessary data. Artemis Astronauts plan to land near the moon's south pole later this decade.

NASA paid Astrobotics $108 million for its contribution to the Peregrine mission, and another $129 million for the Odysseus instruments and transport to the moon.

What's on the Odysseus Moon Lander?

Odysseus also carried six NASA instruments and six commercial payloads, including miniature moon sculptures by artist Jeff Koons, proof-of-concept cloud storage technology, Columbia Sportswear insulation blankets and a small astronomical telescope.

Among the NASA experiments: an instrument to study the charged particle environment on the moon's surface, another designed to test navigation technologies and downward-facing cameras designed to photograph how they affect soil at the landing site.

Also on board: An innovative sensor using radio waves to accurately determine how much cryogenic propellant is left in a tank in the weightless environment of space, technology expected to be useful for subsurface lunar missions and other deep space missions.

Odysseus and its instruments are expected to operate on the surface for about a week until the sun sets on the landing site. At that point, the lander's solar cells can no longer generate power and the spacecraft shuts down. Odysseus was not designed to survive a very cold lunar night.

How to watch the moon set

  • What: Houston-based Intuitive Machines' spacecraft is scheduled to land on the lunar surface
  • Date: Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2024
  • Time: Expected to land at 6:24 pm EST
  • Location: Live coverage of the Moon, NASA and the Intuitive Engines at Houston
  • Online Stream: Live on CBS News in the video player above and on your mobile or streaming device

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