How to Watch Today's Attempted Lunar Landing

Odysseus is in orbit, will attempt to touch down at 5:30pm Eastern time
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2024 1:30 AM CST
How to Watch Today's Attempted Moon Landing
This image provided by Intuitive Machines shows its Odysseus lunar lander over the near side of the moon following lunar orbit insertion on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024.   (Intuitive Machines via AP)

Odysseus, the robotic moon lander launched last week by a private Houston company, successfully entered the moon's orbit Wednesday, and is scheduled to land Thursday at 5:30pm Eastern time—which, if successful, would be the first time in more than five decades that a US spacecraft has touched down on the moon (and the first time ever that a private spacecraft has made a soft landing on the lunar surface). Intuitive Machines, the company behind the 14-foot-tall Nova-C lander, said Wednesday that the spacecraft slowed itself enough that the moon's gravity pulled it into orbit 57 miles above the lunar surface, and the landing time was moved up by 19 minutes based on that orbit. Coverage, and details on how to watch:

  • How to watch: NASA paid Intuitive Machines $118 million to deliver six payloads to the moon, and NASA TV is starting its streaming coverage of the IM-1 mission's landing attempt starting at 4pm Thursday, the New York Times reports. NASA has information on how to watch here. Intuitive Machines will also livestream the landing attempt on its website, reports Gizmodo (which has a link to NASA TV's livestream as well).

  • How is the lander doing? Intuitive Machines says it is in "excellent health," the Washington Post reports. Landing, though, is the biggest challenge yet; another attempt from the commercial sector failed last month. Missions from private companies in Japan and Israel both reached lunar orbit as well, but crashed on the lunar surface in 2023 and 2019, respectively.
  • Why is it so difficult? CNN has a detailed explainer, as well as a history of lunar landings (more than half of which have failed).
  • What will happen during the landing attempt? The Post explains: The spacecraft will fire its engines to descend to around six miles above the lunar surface. "Then its cameras and lasers will feed data to onboard navigation computers that will autonomously guide it to a safe place on the surface. At about 100 feet, it will flip itself to a vertical position with its landing legs pointed down." All the while, it will be getting progressively lighter as it burns fuel.
  • How long will the lander operate? About a week, until the sun sets on the lunar south pole region where it's landing. While NASA's Apollo program sent astronauts to the moon's equatorial regions, this mission is aiming for the same polar region to which NASA hopes to eventually send astronauts via its Artemis program. Per the Post, the region is "unexplored yet potentially fruitful," and has water, in the form of ice. The ultimate goal is to establish a "crewed base" in the area by the end of this decade, reports.
(More moon landings stories.)

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