After 50 Years United States Touches Down on The Moon


Lex Valluzzi, Staff Writer

It has been over five decades since the United States has returned to the moon. But on February 15th in Cape Canaveral, Florida, all of that changed. Intuitive Machines, an aerospace company, launched their IM-1 lander called “Odysseus” from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center into the sky and up to space. 

The United States has made history by accomplishing a soft-landing on the moon. The lack of  atmosphere on the moon makes descent rather difficult because the spacecraft is relying  on an engine rather than a parachute to slow it down. Since the beginning of space travel, only five countries in the world have ever successfully made a soft-landing before. Those countries  include the former Soviet Union, The United States, China, India, and most recently Japan. 

The last time the United States has been to the moon was in 1972, when the Apollo 17 spacecraft containing astronauts Harrison Hagan Schmitt, Gene Cernan and Ronald Evans completed the final mission of NASA’s Apollo program to send humans to the moon.  

The spacecraft was designed to assess the surface of the moon’s south pole, in preparation to have a human crew return to the moon as early as 2026. The Odysseus moon lander is described by NASA as “a hexagonal cylinder, 4.0 meters tall and  1.57 meters wide, on 6 landing legs with a launch mass of 1908 kg.” 

Last Thursday, the spacecraft made its landfall carrying five pieces of NASA technology,  some of which includes a radio beacon to communicate accurate geolocations and a camera to capture images of the surface on the moon. NASA says no images have been released yet, but they are expected to become public shortly.  

Odysseus’s journey to the moon’s surface is expected to last seven days. The mission control  team has stated that the spacecraft has made it to the moon safely and within a mile of its  intended target. The area of interest is the moon’s south pole because scientists have suspected  that frozen water may be occupying its craters. This is the closest our country has gotten to exploring the untouched area. 

Although scientists are continuing to collect the data that the spacecraft is receiving, they’re  expected to lose contact with Odysseus in what could be a matter of hours. Odysseus is being  powered by solar panels attached to the outside of the spacecraft, panels that will only generate  power if they are facing the sun. The mission seemed to be going smoothly until things quite  literally went sideways when Odysseus tipped over onto its side, with the solar panels no longer  facing the sun. The spacecraft did maintain some function and mission control will continue to  collect data until Odysseus inevitably freezes.  

The cause of the fall is said to most likely be because the spacecraft failed to land on one of its  legs when a rock got trapped underneath it. Even with the mission being cut short, valuable information about the moon’s surface will still be of use to NASA’s upcoming project, “The Artemis Program.” Which includes sending the first woman of color to space and exploring the moon more than ever before.

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