US returns to the moon half a century after the Apollo program | The science

Half a century after the Apollo 17 mission, a US spacecraft will land on the moon this Thursday. This is a module Odysseus, which was successfully launched last week by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. If the mission is successful, it will be the first lunar landing by Intuitive Machines, a private company owned by Iranian-American billionaire businessman Kamal Ghaffarian. NASA estimates arrival will occur at 10:24 p.m. Spanish Peninsula time (4:24 p.m. on the east coast of the United States and 3:24 p.m. in central Mexico). Here you can follow the signal live.

The new attempt comes after an eventful few months for other participants in the space race and after the recent fiasco of the Japanese and another American missions. Odysseus It carries six devices that NASA wants to place safely on the gray dust. Intuitive Machines’ lander fired its engine on the far side of the Moon on Wednesday while out of contact with Earth. Flight controllers at the company’s headquarters in Houston had to wait for the craft to exit to find out whether the lander was in orbit or drifting aimlessly, during one of the mission’s most delicate moments.

On Thursday, controllers lowered the craft’s orbit from about 60 miles (92 kilometers) to 6 miles (10 kilometers) in a crucial maneuver on the far side of Earth’s natural satellite. They then aimed for a descent near the moon’s south pole.

Odysseus It tracks its position using cameras, comparing crater patterns to stored maps, and measuring altitude using laser beams on the surface. About 1.2 kilometers from the landing site, the spacecraft will turn into an upright position and sensors will begin searching for a safe place to land. During the last 15 meters of descent, you will stop using the camera and laser to measure your altitude to avoid being fooled by the dust kicked up by the engine exhaust.

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