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Intuitive Machine’s Lunar Lander En Route to Moon Following SpaceX Launch

By Abbey Weltman | February 15, 2024

SpaceX launches IM-1

Intuitive Machine’s IM-1 mission lunar lander is en route to the Moon after a successful launch on a SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket early Thursday. The lunar lander, a Nova-C class named Odysseus, was commissioned in space after establishing a stable attitude, solar charging, and radio communications contact with the company’s mission operations center in Houston.

The IM-1 mission launched from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 1:05 a.m. EST on Thursday. It reached its scheduled orbit in approximately 48 minutes and established first communication with the lander at 1:59 a.m. 

The Intuitive Machines IM-1 mission is the first attempted lunar landing of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, a key part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration efforts. The payloads sent to the Moon’s surface for CLPS intend to pave the way for a sustainable human presence on the lunar surface.

Intuitive Machine flight controllers expect Odysseus to touch down on the lunar surface nine days after liftoff. They plan to operate the payloads for about seven days before the lunar night temperatures leave Odysseus unusable. The mission aims to be the first U.S vehicle to softly land on the lunar surface since Apollo 17 in 1972.

“We are keenly aware of the immense challenges that lie ahead,” said Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus. “However, it is precisely in facing these challenges head-on that we recognize the magnitude of the opportunity before us: to softly return the United States to the surface of the Moon for the first time in 52 years.”