U.S. Spacecraft Successfully Launches Towards Moon

February 15, 2024

I feel fairly confident that we’re going to be successful softly touching down on the moon.

President and chief executive of Intuitive Machines, Stephen Altemus, on the lunar company’s successful moon lander launch early on Thursday morning.

Why It Matters: A SpaceX rocket sent a robotic spacecraft made by Houston-based company, Intuitive Machines, towards the moon. The lunar lander (with no people on board) is part of NASA’s larger Artemis campaign, which seeks to put astronauts back on the moon in the coming years. If successful, the lunar lander will arrive on the moon on February 22 and establish itself as the first American spacecraft to softly land on the moon since the 1972 Apollo 17 moon landing. It would also mark the first time a private space company reaches the moon’s surface.

Deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s science mission directorate, Joel Kearns, explains the intent behind Intuitive Machine’s lunar lander (called Odysseus): “What we’re doing today is we’re going after scientific and technology studies that weren’t even envisioned back at the time of Apollo to answer major scientific questions. … And we’re going to a region of the moon, particularly this mission with [Intuitive Machines] and Artemis that people and robots have never been to — to really look for new things, like if there really is usable volatiles like water ice on the south pole of the moon.

Read More: SpaceX launches a commercial lander to the moon in historic mission (The Washington Post)

Odysseus, a Private Lunar Lander, Launches Toward the Moon (The New York Times)

by Emily Hooker, based in Texas