Odysseus becomes the first commercial spacecraft to soft-land on the moon

US makes a historic return to Moon after over 50 years as Odysseus becomes the first private lunar lander to touch down on the lunar surface. This feat took place on February 22, 2024. Odysseus was developed by Intuitive Machines, a Houston-based company, and was launched on February 15, 2024, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

KnowALLedge Plus:

> Odysseus, also known as Ulysses, was a legendary Greek hero and the protagonist of Homer’s epic poem, the “Odyssey.” He is best remembered for his long and perilous journey home to Ithaca after the conclusion of the Trojan War. During this journey, he faced numerous challenges, which is why the name is apt for any adventurous voyage.

> During the Cold War, the USA and USSR were engaged in a space race, which culminated with Apollo XI carrying man on the moon. In the 21st century, China, India and Japan have all landed spacecraft on the moon — with the latter two making their first touchdowns within the past six months.

> Odysseus also carried a piece of art by Jeff Koons, a renowned American artist, as a symbol of humanity’s creativity and curiosity. Called “Moon Phases,” the 125 min-sculptures of the moon show 62 lunar phases as seen from Earth, 62 phases visible from other viewpoints in space, and one lunar eclipse. Each sculpture is inscribed with the name of a famous figure, including Aristotle, David Bowie, Leonardo da Vinci, Gandhi, Billie Holiday, Gabriel García Márquez, Andy Warhol and Virginia Woolf.

> In an unexpected turn of events, Odysseus stopped working two hours before touchdown, when NASA’s Navigation Doppler LIDAR came to rescue. In fact, LIDAR, a technology developed by NASA for lunar landings, has a more earthly application. It is used in self-driving cars, among others.

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