The Odysseus lunar lander made a successful touchdown near the south pole of the moon Thursday evening, marking the first uncrewed U.S. commercial moon landing and the U.S.’ first return to the moon in 50 years.

Officials with Intuitive Machines say they have received a faint positive return from their lander, which will still need refining and strengthening.

But they say it’s enough to confirm that the landing was successful.

“Our equipment is on the surface of the moon, and we are transmitting,” mission director Tim Crain said at 6:37p.m. Eastern Time.

Flight controllers had decided to add one more orbit before beginning the IM-1 Mission landing sequence, which pushed the expected landing time two hours later than initially planned.

Intuitive Machines’ lander touched down near the Malapert A region of the moon, which is a relatively flat spot among the collection of craters near the moon’s south pole.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket helped launch the lander into space last week from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. 

The moon landing is part of NASAs CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative and Artemis campaign. NASA says CLPS and Artemis are helping scientists better understand our solar system and learn more about long-term human exploration of space. 

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, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said after the launch. 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. 

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Thursday’s scheduled landing comes nearly a month after NASA abandoned its Peregrine Mission One. That mission was set to also include an uncrewed lunar landing, but after mid-flight issues arose, NASA opted to direct the spacecraft and its onboard lunar lander to reenter Earth’s atmosphere. 

NASA is set to send astronauts around the moon in September 2025 as part of the Artemis campaign. A crewed landing on the moon is set to follow in September 2026. 

Astronauts have not set foot on the surface of the moon since 1972. 

Numerous scientific instruments are contained within the Odysseus lander. 

Retroreflectors on board will help with communications and navigation for future missions. There will also be instruments used to help determine how natural and human-generated activity near the surface of the  moon interacts with and could interfere with science conducted there, NASA said. 

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