An American spacecraft enters lunar orbit and prepares for landing

A spacecraft manufactured by “Intuitive Machines” reached lunar orbit today, Wednesday, on its way to attempting the first American landing on the moon in over 50 years, and the first ever landing by a privately-owned spacecraft.

The company stated in an online statement that the spacecraft, a “Nova-C” model with six legs named “Odyssey,” entered a circular orbit at an altitude of 92 kilometers above the lunar surface after igniting the main rocket propulsion for approximately 7 minutes in an orbit insertion maneuver.

Assuming things proceed as planned, the spacecraft is expected to gradually lower its orbit over the next 24 hours and land near the lunar south pole at 5:49 p.m. Eastern Time (22:49 GMT) tomorrow, Thursday, carrying 6 payloads from NASA consisting of instruments designed to collect data about the lunar environment.

The company said that Odyssey is still in “excellent condition,” adding that during its time in lunar orbit at a distance of 384,000 kilometers from Earth, mission controllers in Houston will monitor the spacecraft’s flight data and transmit images of the moon.

Odyssey’s journey began 6 days ago, on February 15th, aboard a Falcon-9 rocket manufactured by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company based in California, from NASA‘s Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

If the flight succeeds, it will mark the first controlled landing on the lunar surface by an American spacecraft since the last manned mission of the “Apollo” spacecraft to the moon in 1972, and the first by a private company.

This mission, if successful, will also mark the first trip to the lunar surface as part of NASA‘s Artemis lunar program, as the United States seeks to return astronauts to the moon before China sends its own manned spacecraft there.

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