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Houston company prepares to send robot lander to Moon’s surface

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A Houston-based company, Intuitive Machines, is gearing up to launch a robot lander named Odysseus with the mission of returning America to the surface of the moon. However, SpaceX encountered a setback when the planned launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying Odysseus was delayed due to unusual temperature readings before loading liquid methane fuel onto the probe.

The launch team is now targeting a new launch window on Thursday at 1:05 a.m. EST, with a third opportunity available on Friday if necessary.

Despite the delay, Intuitive Machines remains optimistic about Odysseus’ mission, which aims to land near the moon’s south pole on February 22. The lander is equipped with a high-power 3D-printed main engine burning liquid oxygen and methane propellants, marking a significant milestone for deep space exploration.

SpaceX has made extensive modifications to ensure the safe transport of cryogenic propellants into the Falcon 9’s nose fairing and the lander’s tanks. Although minor issues were identified during dress rehearsals, the company assures that there are no major obstacles preventing the launch.

Intuitive Machines’ vice president of space systems, Trent Martin, emphasized the significance of the mission, highlighting the opportunity to return the United States to the moon for the first time since 1972. Despite acknowledging the challenges ahead, Martin expressed the company’s commitment to exploration and innovation.

Odysseus carries a total of twelve payloads, including six NASA instruments and six commercial payloads. These payloads range from scientific instruments to student-built projects, demonstrating a diverse array of technologies and experiments aimed at advancing lunar exploration.

The success of Odysseus’ mission is crucial for both Intuitive Machines and NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. With the increasing involvement of private industry in lunar missions, there is a growing emphasis on innovation, cost-effectiveness, and risk management. Lessons learned from missions like Peregrine and Odysseus will inform future endeavors, paving the way for Artemis astronauts to land near the moon’s south pole in the coming years.

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