First moon-landing by private company

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What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in news?
  • What is Artemis programme?
  • What is Odysseus?
  • What is the significance of Odysseus?

Why in news?

  • The Odysseus lunar lander has made the first United States landing on the moon in more than 50 years.
  • This also marks the arrival of private space companies on the lunar surface.

What is Artemis programme?

  • About
    • The Artemis programme is a series of ongoing lunar missions run by NASA.
  • Different phases under this programme
    • One Artemis mission has already been completed. In late 2022, Artemis 1, an uncrewed test flight, orbited and flew beyond the Moon. 
    • Artemis 2 will be a crewed flight beyond the Moon which will take humans the farthest they’ve ever been in space.
    • Artemis 3 will be the first crewed Moon landing mission since Apollo 17 in 1972.
      • NASA aims to land the first female astronaut and first astronaut of colour on the lunar surface
      • They will spend a week on the Moon performing scientific studies, before returning to Earth.
    • Artemis 4 will deliver a core part of a new lunar space station (named 'Gateway') into orbit around the Moon, and land another two astronauts on the Moon's surface.
    • Artemis 5 will add another important module to Gateway and involve a third crewed lunar landing to undertake further surface science.
  • Aim
    • It seeks to establish a permanent base camp on the Moon.
    • It also aims to send astronauts and robots for longer stays for more comprehensive exploration, and scientific studies, of the lunar surface and atmosphere. 
    • It would also explore opportunities for the utilisation of resources available on the Moon with the ultimate objective of launching deep space missions from the lunar surface.

What is Odysseus?

  • About
    • Odysseus, a spacecraft built by Intuitive Machines, used a Falcon 9 rocket of SpaceX to take off from Earth on February 15.
      • Intuitive Machines is a ten-year-old company based in Houston, USA.
    • The spacecraft carried six NASA payloads to the Moon.
      • The lander module of Odysseus, called Nova-C, has become the second one, after Chandrayaan-3 last year, to land in the Moon’s south pole region.
      • This is the third moon-landing event within a year, after Chandrayaan-3 and Japans’ SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon).
  • Mission objectives
    • The lunar lander is designed to evaluate the environment at the moon’s south pole.
      • This is significant as NASA prepares to send a crewed mission in September 2026 with Artemis III.
      • Prior to deploying astronauts to this area, however, the agency wants to gather additional data. 
      • This information will help evaluate factors such as the quantity of water present and the accessibility of this vital resource.
  • Funding
    • For this mission, NASA paid Intuitive Machines $118m under a programme known as Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS).
      • Under CLPS, so far, at least 14 private companies have been contracted to carry NASA payloads to the Moon.
      • This collaboration is aimed at creating the market and technology ecosystem in the private space industry with respect to science and technology needs of lunar exploration.

What is the significance of Odysseus?

  • Towards ensuring long term human presence on Moon
  • The landing of Odysseus marks a new beginning in the exploration of the Moon aimed at creating infrastructure and technology ecosystem capable of supporting long-term human presence.
  • Different from the moon landings of the 1960s and 1970s by the US and the then Soviet Union
    • The moon landings in the 1960s and 1970s, led by the US and the Soviet Union, were huge scientific accomplishments. 
    • However, during that time, they did not have the technology to take advantage of the moon's resources. 
    • So, while the moon landings were amazing events back then, they could not immediately lead to things like mining resources on the moon because the technology was not advanced enough at that time.
  • Supports US resolve to return to the Moon through the Artemis programme
    • The latest landing is part of the US resolve to return to the Moon in a big way through the Artemis programme. 
    • It is not just about landing spacecraft or human beings on the Moon, but about creating the infrastructure and the economy that will lead to more meaningful exploration of the Moon.
    • This could eventually enable countries to use the Moon as a stepping stone to explore even deeper into space.

Q1) What is Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS)?

Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) is a NASA program that hires companies to send robotic landers and rovers to the Moon. The program's goal is to help NASA explore the Moon as it prepares for human missions.

Q2) What is Falcon 9 rocket?

The Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket, designed and manufactured by SpaceX. It is the first reusable orbital class rocket in the world. The Falcon 9 can carry crew and cargo into Earth's orbit, or be used as an expendable heavy-lift launch vehicle.


Source: First moon-landing by private company: What it means for lunar exploration | Royal Museums Greenwich | Aljazeera