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U.S. lunar mission readies for crucial maneuver

An American space mission that’s vying to make history by becoming the first commercial endeavor to achieve a soft lunar landing — and also the first U.S. landing since the final Apollo mission in 1972 — is about to enter a crucial stage of its journey.

In an update shared on Tuesday, Texas-based Intuitive Machines said that the flight controllers of Mission IM-1, which launched last week for a rendezvous with the moon on Thursday, have achieved the second planned Trajectory Correction Maneuver (TCM) of the Odysseus spacecraft “with enough precision to eliminate the need for the initially planned third TCM engine firing.”

It means that the team is all set up for Wednesday’s “largest challenge to date,” the Lunar Orbit Insertion (LOI) maneuver.

This maneuver, if performed successfully, will set Odysseus on its final course for Thursday’s historic landing.

Intuitive Machines added in its update on Tuesday that the spacecraft continues to be in “excellent health” and is currently about 42,000 miles (68,000 kilometers) from the moon. “Over the next several hours, flight controllers will continue to analyze the flight data ahead of LOI,” the company said.

IM-1 is part of NASA’s new CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) program in which the space agency is contracting commercial entities to send science missions on the lunar surface ahead of the first Artemis crewed landing, which NASA is targeting for 2026.

Intuitive Machines is sending a dozen payloads to the lunar South Pole, an area that remains largely unexplored and which will be the main focus of the Artemis missions.

It’s no easy feat to put a lander on the moon. Just last month, a similar mission by Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic failed to make it to the lunar surface due to a propellant leak in its Peregrine spacecraft shortly after launch.

Intuitive Machines’ mission has so far progressed flawlessly — it even found time to beam back some sublime Earth photos — raising hopes of a successful soft landing on Thursday. The company will live stream the event, so be sure to tune in.

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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)…
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