Odysseus moon lander makes historic landing, transmits signal back

The Odysseus lunar lander, developed by Houston-based company Intuitive Machines, landed on the surface of the moon Thursday – and it was streamed live for the public.

The first U.S. commercial moon lander, Odysseus – also known by its nickname "Odie" – touched down at 6:23 p.m. ET near a crater called Malapert A in the south pole region of the moon. The company said the lunar lander transmitted a weak signal back.

Despite the spotty communication, Intuitive Machines, the company that built and managed the craft, confirmed that it had landed upright. But it did not provide additional details, including whether the lander had reached its intended destination near the moon’s south pole. The company ended its live webcast soon after identifying a lone, weak signal from the lander.

"We can confirm, without a doubt, our equipment is on the surface of the moon," mission director Tim Crain reported as tension built in the company’s Houston control center.

Added Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus: "I know this was a nail-biter, but we are on the surface and we are transmitting. Welcome to the moon."

Data was finally starting to stream in, according to a company announcement two hours after touchdown.

NASA announced the news of the landing on social media Thursday afternoon, writing, "Your order was delivered… to the Moon," 

Intuitive Machines also became the first private business to pull off a lunar landing, a feat achieved by only five countries. Another U.S. company, Astrobotic Technology, gave it a shot last month, but never made it to the moon, and the lander crashed back to Earth.

Previously, the U.S. had not returned to the moon’s surface since the Apollo program ended more than 50 years ago. Only five countries — the U.S., Russia, China, India and Japan — have completed a lunar landing and no private business had done so.

Astrobotic was among the first to relay congratulations. "An incredible achievement. We can’t wait to join you on the lunar surface in the near future," the company said via X, formerly Twitter.

Intuitive Machines "aced the landing of a lifetime," tweeted NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

Where Odysseus touched down and what was on board

The lander, Odysseus, descended from a moon-skimming orbit and guided itself toward the surface, searching for a relatively flat spot among all the cliffs and craters near the south pole.


Odysseus passes over the near side of the Moon after entering lunar orbit insertion on February 21. (Intuitive Machines / NASA)

Intuitive Machines’ target was 186 miles (300 kilometers) shy of the south pole, around 80 degrees latitude and closer to the pole than any other spacecraft has come. 

Intuitive Machines nicknamed its lander after Homer's hero in "The Odyssey."

"Godspeed, Odysseus. Now let’s go make history," said Trent Martin, vice president of space systems.

NASA paid Intuitive Machines $118 million to get its latest set of experiments to the moon. The company also drummed up its own customers, including Columbia Sportswear, which was testing a metallic jacket fabric as a thermal insulator on the lander, and sculptor Jeff Koons, who was sending up 125 inch-sized moon figurines in a see-through cube.

The lander also was carrying Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Eaglecam, which would snap pictures of the lander as they both descend.

The solar-powered lander was intended to operate for a week, until the long lunar night.

SpaceX launches Odysseus

Odysseus launched at 1:05 a.m. on Feb. 15 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

RELATED: SpaceX launches 'Odysseus' lunar lander, aiming for historic US moon mission

The Odysseus lunar lander was dispatched with it to the moon, some 230,000 miles away. 

NASA’s first entry in its commercial lunar delivery service stumbled shortly after liftoff in early January. A ruptured fuel tank and massive leak caused the spacecraft to bypass the moon and come tearing back through the atmosphere 10 days after launching, breaking apart and burning up over the Pacific.

This story was reported from Los Angeles. Kelly Hayes, The Associated Press contributed.