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Check out these cool Earth images from the latest moon mission

Earth as seen from Intuitive Machines' Odysseus lander as it heads to the moon.
Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lander captures an image high over Australia as it heads toward the moon. There’s much debate as to whether the dot to the left of Earth is the second-stage booster (which is seen more clearly in the first of the four images) or the moon, or something else. Intuitive Machines

Soon after SpaceX successfully launched Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lander toward the moon last Thursday, the spacecraft snapped some extraordinary images of Earth.

Texas-based Intuitive Machines shared four of the images on social media on Sunday. The first picture in the sequence even shows the second stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket falling away shortly after separating from the spacecraft.

Intuitive Machines successfully transmitted its first IM-1 mission images to Earth on February 16, 2024. The images were captured shortly after separation from @SpaceX's second stage on Intuitive Machines’ first journey to the Moon under @NASA's CLPS initiative.

— Intuitive Machines (@Int_Machines) February 17, 2024

Intuitive Machines said its team programmed the lander’s wide and narrow field-of-view cameras “to take five quick images every five minutes for two hours, starting 100 seconds after separating from SpaceX’s second stage,” adding that “out of all the images collected, Intuitive Machines chose to show humanity’s place in the universe with four wonderful images we hope [will] inspire the next generation of risk-takers.”

In a mission update, Intuitive Machines said that Odysseus “continues to be in excellent health” as mission IM-1 makes its way toward the moon for a touchdown scheduled to take place on Thursday. “Flight controllers are preparing planned trajectory correction maneuvers to prepare the lander for lunar orbit insertion,” the company added in its message.

If Intuitive Machines manages to perform a successful soft landing with Odysseus, it will become the first private company to achieve the feat. It will also mark the first soft lunar landing by a U.S. spacecraft since the final Apollo mission in 1972.

Odysseus is carrying a total of 12 payloads, six of them for NASA. The payloads will operate for about seven days until the lunar night sets on the South Pole, at which point Odysseus will become inoperable.

IM-1 is part of NASA’s new CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) program, which involves the space agency contracting commercial entities to deploy science missions on the moon ahead of the first Artemis crewed landing, which is currently scheduled for 2026.

A similar mission by Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic in January failed to make it to the moon after a propellant leak impacted the Peregrine spacecraft soon after launch.

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Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
SpaceX just launched a moon mission that could enter the history books
Intuitive Machines' Odysseus lander heads to the moon.

SpaceX successfully launched a commercial mission to the moon from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in the early hours of Thursday morning.

A Falcon 9 rocket carried Intuitive Machines' Odysseus lander to orbit, setting it on course for a rendezvous with the lunar surface next week.

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Check out the first image from Peregrine lunar lander
The first image of Astrobotic's Peregrine spacecraft.

UPDATE: Astrobotic confirmed on Monday evening that the Peregrine lander will not be able to make it to the lunar surface. In a post on social media, it said that an ongoing propellant leak is causing the spacecraft's thrusters to operate "well beyond their expected service life cycles to keep the lander from an uncontrollable tumble." It added that based on the current rate of fuel consumption, the spacecraft's thrusters could continue to operate for about 40 more hours, adding: "At this time, the goal is to get Peregrine as close to lunar distance as we can before it loses the ability to maintain its sun-pointing position and subsequently loses power."

Astrobotic’s Peregrine spacecraft has beamed back its first image (above) and it provides the first visual evidence of a propulsion system anomaly.

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Historic moon mission launches successfully from Kennedy
The launch of Peregrine Mission 1 by a new ULA rocket, the Vulcan Centaur.

A mission to send the first U.S. lander to the moon in five decades has launched successfully from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Peregrine Mission 1, operated by Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology, is also aiming to become the first to successfully achieve a soft touchdown of a privately built lunar lander.

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