A private American probe in orbit around the moon

A private American probe in orbit around the moon

(Cape Canaveral, Fla.) A private U.S. lunar lander reached the moon on Wednesday and entered low orbit, a day before attempting an even greater feat: landing on the gray, dusty surface.

Posted at 2:15 p.m.


Marcia Dunn Associated Press

A soft lunar landing would allow the United States to return to the moon for the first time since NASA's Apollo program ended in 1972. If successful, the company would also be the first private company to successfully land on the moon.

The Intuitive Machines lander, launched last week, fired its engine behind the far side of the moon when it was no longer in contact with Earth. Flight controllers at the company's headquarters in Houston had to wait for the spacecraft to surface to learn whether the lander was in orbit or wandering aimlessly.

Intuitive Machines has confirmed that its lander, nicknamed Odysseus, is orbiting the moon with experiments from NASA and other customers.

Several Canadian technologies are on board.

This mission will see Canadensys Aerospace Corporation demonstrate its operational 360° imaging systems, one of which was partially funded by the Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program.

Canadensys designed and built a lunar astronomical observatory. It provided operational cameras that are an integral part of this and subsequent lunar landers.

The MDA company was also contracted by Intuitive Machines to supply sensors for the Ulysse lander. They will help measure the distance between the spacecraft and the lunar surface during descent.

The lander is part of a NASA program to revitalize the lunar economy; The space agency spent $118 million to bring its experiments to the moon as part of this mission.

On Thursday, flight controllers will lower the orbit from just under 92 kilometers to 10 kilometers – a crucial maneuver that will again take place over the far side of the moon – before aiming for a lunar landing near the south pole. It is a difficult landing site with several craters and cliffs, but is considered prime terrain for astronauts because the constantly shadowed craters are believed to contain frozen water.

The moon is littered with debris from failed lunar landings. Some missions didn't go that far. Another American company, Astrobotic Technology, tried to send a lander to the moon last month but failed to reach its destination due to a fuel leak.