Private lunar lander achieves successful orbit ahead of today’s touchdown attempt

This image provided by Intuitive Machines shows its Odysseus lunar lander with the Earth in the background on Feb. 16, 2024. The image was captured shortly after separation from SpaceX's second stage on Intuitive Machines' first journey to the moon. (Intuitive Machines via AP)

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)

ORLANDO, Fla. — A commercial company’s lunar lander launched from Kennedy Space Center last week successfully made it into the moon’s orbit on Wednesday ahead of its attempt today to stick the landing.

Houston-based Intuitive Machines posted on social media that its Nova-C lander named Odysseus, which blasted off from KSC on Feb. 15 atop a SpaceX Falcon 9, had performed a 408-second main engine burn that put it into a successful lunar orbit of an altitude of about 57 miles.


“Odysseus is now closer to the moon than the end-to-end distance driving across Space City, Houston, TX,” the company posted on X, noting it had already traveled more than 620,000 miles in the last seven days.

The spacecraft will remain in orbit while flight controllers analyze flight data and transmit images back to Earth, the company said.

Elon Musk chimed in to say, “Congrats!” to which the company replied, “Thanks for the TLI throw!”

TLI stands for trans-lunar injection.

Earlier this week, the company posted images from Odysseus’ journey to the moon showing Earth in the background. Its trip to the moon has been more successful than fellow commercial company Astrobotic Technology’s attempt that launched in January, which suffered a propellant leak that forced the company to send its Peregrine lunar lander back to Earth to burn up on reentry.

The Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines launches were the first two under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Lander Services (CLPS) program, an effort by NASA to encourage private companies to succeed so NASA could become a customer for future supply and science missions as opposed to running the whole mission. It has seven more CLPS contracts slated so far including up to three more this year.

NASA paid Intuitive Machines $118 million for the mission, and Odysseus is carrying six NASA science payloads worth about $12 million as well as another six payloads the company organized on its own.

The payloads will help NASA’s efforts to eventually bring human missions to the moon’s south pole as well, currently the goal of the Artemis III mission as early as September 2026.

The hard part of landing on the moon successfully, though, is still to come. The company is targeting dropping to about 6 miles altitude with another burn on the far side of the moon and then try to touch down on the moon’s south pole at 12:49 p.m. HST today.

The company plans to stream its landing attempt on the company website at and on its X account at and NASA will also host the stream on its social media outlets like at NASA TV with coverage beginning at 11 a.m. HST.

If Odysseus’ landing is successful, it would become the first commercial lunar lander to safely reach the moon’s surface following Astrobotic’s misfire in January and two private companies from Israel and Japan that failed in previous years.

It would also mark the first U.S. soft landing on the moon since the end of the Apollo program in 1972.

One of the instruments on the lander is a narrow-field camera called Ka ‘Imi, meaning “to search.” The camera was named in 2022 by a Kealakehe Intermediate School student.

That camera, along with a companion wide-field camera, was designed by the Waimea-based International Lunar Observatory.

The commercial lunar economy NASA is seeking to spark with its CLPS program will allow it to focus on its human Artemis missions.

Artemis II, which will send the first humans back to moon, only to fly around it, is slated for as early as September 2025 with the more complicated Artemis III mission that aims to return humans, including the first woman, to the lunar surface slated for one year later as early as September 2026.

So far only 12 men from six Apollo missions from 1969-1972 have walked on the moon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email