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US: Odysseus Lunar Lander Takes Off, Sends First Radio Signals

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Intuitive Machines, a Houston-based aerospace company, built the moon lander that was launched early on Thursday from Florida to perform the first lunar landing by a privately owned spacecraft and the first US landing in over 50 years.

Odysseus, also called “Odie” or IM-1, the company’s Nova-C lander, took off in a historic mission just after 1 a.m. EST (10:00 MUT) on top of a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

The launch comes soon after the US attempted a separate lunar landing mission in January, which ended in failure. Before attempting to send humans back to the moon later this decade, NASA has accelerated the development of robotic spacecraft with the help of private partners in order to assess the lunar environment and pinpoint important resources, like the presence of water.

Webcast commentators stated that shortly after the lander started automatically turning on its systems and orienting itself in space, mission operations in Houston received the first radio signals from Odysseus.

Odie is currently travelling around Earth in an oval shape, up to 380,000 kilometres (236,100 miles) away from home. The vehicle will also start its motor for the first time approximately eighteen hours into spaceflight, accelerating its rapid descent towards the lunar surface.

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