xi's moments
Home | Americas

Private US spaceship takes off for the Moon

Updated: 2024-02-15 16:14

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off on the IM-1 mission with the Nova-C moon lander built and owned by Intuitive Machines from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, US, Feb 15, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, United States - A US spaceship attempting a lunar landing lifted off early Thursday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the second such private-led effort this year after the first ended in failure.

Intuitive Machines, the Houston company leading mission "IM-1," hopes to become the first non-government entity to achieve a soft touchdown on the Moon, and to land the first US robot on the surface since the Apollo missions more than five decades ago.

Its hexagonal-shaped Nova-C lander named "Odysseus" blasted off on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket shortly after 1:00 am local time (0600 GMT).

IM-1 was supposed to blast off on Wednesday, but the launch was postponed after SpaceX discovered abnormal temperatures as it attempted to fuel up the lander.

Space agency NASA confirmed the lander had successfully lifted off.

"Confirmed: The Nova-C lander has separated and continues its trip to the Moon," NASA wrote on social media platform X.

The lander has a new type of supercooled liquid methane and oxygen engine giving it the power to reach its destination quickly, avoiding prolonged exposure to a region of high radiation surrounding the Earth known as the Van Allen belt.

Intuitive Machine's Trent Martin told reporters this week that the "opportunity to return the United States to the Moon for the first time since 1972 is a feat of engineering that demands a hunger to explore."

Despite the postponement, the craft is still due to reach its landing site Malapert A on February 22, an impact crater 300 kilometers (180 miles) from the south pole.

NASA hopes to eventually build a long-term presence and harvest ice there for both drinking water and rocket fuel under Artemis, its flagship Moon-to-Mars program.

NASA paid Intuitive Machines $118 million to ship science hardware to better understand and mitigate environmental risks for astronauts, the first of whom are scheduled to land no sooner than 2026.

There is more colorful cargo aboard as well, including a digital archive of human knowledge and 125 mini-sculptures of the Moon by the artist Jeff Koons.

After touchdown, the payloads are expected to run for roughly seven days before lunar night sets in on the south pole, rendering Odysseus inoperable.


Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349