What’s Up? The Space Place: MOON LANDING THURSDAY!


What’s Up? The Space Place: MOON LANDING THURSDAY!

 Hey, Space Placers!


CREDIT: Intuitive Machines@Int_Machines on X

Odysseus’ Terrain Relative Navigation camera captured this image of the Bel’kovich K crater in the Moon’s northern equatorial highlands.

It is an approximate 50 km diameter crater with mountains in the center, made when the crater was formed.

(21FEB2024 1750 CST)


Intuitive Machines will attempt a landing at the Moon’s South Pole at near the lunar feature known as Malapert A today at approximately 5:30 p.m. EST and NASA will be live streaming the event starting at 4:00 p.m. EST .

The intrepid spacecraft poised to make spaceflight history as the 1st private spacecraft to SAFELY land on the Moon and it will be the first U.S. spacecraft to land on the Moon since Apollo 17 in December 1972.

The uncrewed Nova-C lunar lander is called Odysseus, or Odie. It was launched last week on a Space-X Falcon 9 rocket at Kennedy Space Center, Florida .

Recent attempts to land on the Moon by Japan, Russia, Israel, and the U.S. resulted in crashes. Japan’s most recent attempt,  SLIM,  landed essentially upside down but was able to complete most of its science objectives and return  pictures. 

The U.S. lunar landing attempt by Astrobotics Technology’s Peregrine lunar lander was just last month and ended when the spacecraft entered Earth’s atmosphere

Today is the second attempted lunar landing by a private spacecraft funded by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) 

As explained by NASA, Odie is a product of NASA’s “CLPS initiative and Artemis campaign. Intuitive Machines’ first lunar mission will carry NASA science to the Moon to study plume-surface interactions, space weather/lunar surface interactions, radio astronomy, precision landing technologies, and a communication and navigation node for future autonomous navigation technologies.”

“NASA scientific instruments are on their way to the Moon – a giant leap for humanity as we prepare to return to the lunar surface for the first time in more than half a century,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “These daring Moon deliveries will not only conduct new science at the Moon, but they are supporting a growing commercial space economy while showing the strength of American technology and innovation. We have so much to learn through CLPS flights that will help us shape the future of human exploration for the Artemis Generation.” 

While enroute to the Moon:

 NASA instruments will measure the quantity of cryogenic engine fuel as it is used, and during descent toward the lunar surface, they will collect data on plume-surface interactions and test precision landing technologies.

Once on the Moon, NASA instruments will focus on investigating space weather/lunar surface interactions and radio astronomy. The Nova-C lander also will carry retroreflectors contributing to a network of location markers on the Moon for communication and navigation for future autonomous navigation technologies.

NASA science aboard the lander includes:

Lunar Node 1 Navigation Demonstrator: A small, CubeSat-sized experiment that will demonstrate autonomous navigation that could be used by future landers, surface infrastructure, and astronauts, digitally confirming their positions on the Moon relative to other spacecraft, ground stations, or rovers on the move.

Laser Retroreflector Array: A collection of eight retroreflectors that enable precision laser ranging, which is a measurement of the distance between the orbiting or landing spacecraft to the reflector on the lander. The array is a passive optical instrument and will function as a permanent location marker on the Moon for decades to come.   

Navigation Doppler Lidar for Precise Velocity and Range Sensing: A Lidar-based (Light Detection and Ranging) guidance system for descent and landing. This instrument operates on the same principles of radar but uses pulses from a laser emitted through three optical telescopes. It will measure speed, direction, and altitude with high precision during descent and touchdown.   

Radio Frequency Mass Gauge: A technology demonstration that measures the amount of propellant in spacecraft tanks in a low-gravity space environment. Using sensor technology, the gauge will measure the amount of cryogenic propellant in Nova-C’s fuel and oxidizer tanks, providing data that could help predict fuel usage on future missions.   

Radio-wave Observations at the Lunar Surface of the Photoelectron Sheath: The instrument will observe the Moon’s surface environment in radio frequencies, to determine how natural and human-generated activity near the surface interacts with and could interfere with science conducted there.

Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume-Surface Studies: A suite of four tiny cameras to capture imagery showing how the Moon’s surface changes from interactions with the spacecraft’s engine plume during and after descent.

End NASA Quote.

NASA’s still active  Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has been in lunar orbit since 2009 and has documented each successful and crash landing that has taken place. 

I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS! Be sure to tune in today at 4 p.m. to potentially watch history in the making.

Leave a Comment