Private spacecraft enters lunar orbit


Private spacecraft enters lunar orbit
A private US spacecraft entered orbit around the moon on Wednesday, a day before attempting an even more difficult undertaking – landing on the moon's surface.

A successful landing would restore an American presence on the moon for the first time since NASA astronauts ended the Apollo program in 1972. If successful, the company would become the first private entity to achieve a successful landing on the moon.

Launched last week, the Intuitive Machines spacecraft passed through the dark side of the Moon, where there was no contact with Earth. Controllers at the company's headquarters in Houston had to wait until the craft appeared to learn whether it had successfully entered orbit.

The company "Intuitive Machines" confirmed that the spacecraft, named Odysseus (Odyssey) was moving around the moon while developing experiments commissioned by NASA and other customers. The vehicle is part of a NASA program to initiate the first economic activities on the Moon. NASA has paid 118 million dollars for these lunar experiments.

On Thursday, controllers will lower the altitude of the rover's orbit from 92 kilometers to 10 kilometers before attempting a landing near the moon's south pole. It is a dangerous area to land on because of the many craters and hills, but it is considered valuable because the ever-shadowing craters are thought to contain frozen water.

The surface of the Moon is littered with debris from past failed landings. Some missions didn't even make it to that stage. Another private US company, Astrobotic Technology, tried to send a spacecraft to the moon last month, but failed to get there due to a fuel leak. The damaged ship reentered Earth's atmosphere, burning up over the Pacific.