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U.S. Spacecraft Makes First Moon Landing In 50 Years

Lunar lander is 'alive and well' and transmitting signals back to Earth

U.S. Spacecraft Makes First Moon Landing In 50 Years

For the first time in more than 50 years, a U.S.-built spacecraft has touched down on the moon.

The Odysseus lunar lander, slightly larger than a telephone booth and developed by Intuitive Machines, is the first commercial spacecraft that has landed on the moon. The IM-1 mission is to assess the lunar environment of the moon’s south pole to prepare for NASA’s plan for a crewed mission in 2026.

Odysseus, named after the figure in Greek mythology, landed about 186 miles (300km) from the moon’s south pole at 6:23 p.m. EST on Feb. 22. Shortly after the landing, Tim Crain, chief technology officer of Houston-based Intuitive Machines, said that a signal from the spacecraft had been detected.

“It’s faint, but it’s there,” he said. “So stand by, folks. We’ll see what’s happening here.”

Shortly thereafter, he announced, “What we can confirm, without a doubt, is our equipment is on the surface of the moon and we are transmitting. So congratulations.”

In a Feb. 23 update, Intuitive Machines said that Odysseus is “alive and well.” Though engineers had to overcome some challenges prior to landing, the company says flight controllers are successfully commanding and controlling the vehicle.

“The lander has good telemetry and solar charging,” the company said.

Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus, who previously served as deputy director for NASA’s Johnson Space Center, is scheduled to participate in a press conference later in the day to discuss the historic landing.

Following the successful deployment to the moon, Intuitive Machines’ stock has more than tripled, climbing more than 300 percent since early January.

"We've never witnessed a publicly traded company go through [a moon landing attempt]. So this is new, not just for investors, but for us analysts as well," Cantor Fitzgerald's Andres Sheppard told CNBC.

Wall Street analysts said the rise was fueled by investors’ excitement about the company reaching an unprecedented goal.

“Today for the first time in more than a half-century, the US has returned to the moon,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. “Today is a day that shows the power and promise of NASA’s commercial partnerships. Congratulations to everyone involved in this great and daring quest.”

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