Private Spacecraft Makes First US Moon Landing Since 1972

  • Texas-based Intuitive Machines successfully landed its Odysseus robotic lander near the lunar south pole Thursday evening, marking the first American Moon landing since 1972 and the first moon landing by a private company. BBC News (LR: 3 CP: 5)
  • Landing the Nova-C vehicle near the Malapert A crater — about 190 miles (300 km) from the Moon's south pole — was delayed by several hours, as flight controllers had to switch to experimental landing software following a problem with the navigation system.
  • After initial transmission problems following touchdown, the company's flight controllers eventually received a strong enough signal from the robotic lander. Later in the evening, Intuitive Machines confirmed Odysseus was "upright and starting to send data." New York Times (LR: 2 CP: 5)
  • The unmanned spacecraft, built with funding from NASA, began its flight from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on a Falcon 9 rocket launched by Elon Musk's company SpaceX. It's expected to operate for a week on the moon's surface until the lunar night makes it inoperable. Al Jazeera (LR: 2 CP: 1)
  • Odysseus carried payloads from various commercial customers, as well as scientific and technological instruments for NASA, whose cargo is set to explore weather interactions with the lunar surface, radio astronomy, and related lunar environment aspects for future missions. France 24
  • The mission is part of NASA's $2.9B Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program (CLPS), of which it paid Intuitive Machines $118M. NASA hopes the successful mission will help it achieve its goal of putting astronauts back on the Moon by 2026. Washington Post (LR: 2 CP: 5)

Narrative A:

  • The US is in a new space race against other countries, including China and India, but this one isn't about science — it's a gold rush to make up for plundering Earth's resources. The Moon can provide valuable supplies of ice water and other resources. Rather than solving problems on Earth, the world's great powers have shifted their competition into space, which will cause instability at home on our pale blue dot.

Narrative B:

  • This mission isn't a chapter in some space race — it's a sign of how two of the world's great powers can cooperate. Chinese scientists will be able to use the technical equipment on board to carry out various astronomical observations, while US experts previously were able to use an ultraviolet telescope on China's Chang'e 3 lunar lander. Contrary to apocalyptic predictions, the Moon will not be the next site of a worldwide conflict.

Nerd narrative:

  • There's an 11% chance that China will land the next person on the Moon, according to the Metaculus prediction community.
    METACULUS (LR: 3 CP: 3)
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