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How NASA’s new mission to drill for water on the moon will help astronauts BREATHE in space, create fuel for spaceships and give America a permanent lunar base – catapulting us into a new era of space exploration


The first privately owned spacecraft is currently sitting on the moon, gearing up to search for signs of water in the lunar landscape.

Odysseus, a $118 million uncrewed lander built by Intuitive Machines, made a soft landing near the moon’s south pole at 6:24pm ET Thursday.

NASA’s Polar Resources Ice-Mining Experiment-1 is strapped the the craft’s exterior, which will soon dig into the surface, collect regolith and analyze the lunar dust with a suit of powerful instruments.

The mission will aid astronauts who will soon investigate the moon, allowing them to use water for hydration, fuel and even breathing – ultimately establishing a human presence.

The first privately owned spacecraft is currently sitting on the moon, gearing up to search for signs of water in the lunar landscape

The first privately owned spacecraft is currently sitting on the moon, gearing up to search for signs of water in the lunar landscape

‘Thanks to data from spacecraft orbiting the moon, scientists believe the polar regions are rich with water below the lunar surface,’ NASA shared in a statement.

‘But [we have] never explored these regions or directly detected the water.

‘PRIME-1 will help identify and assess the abundance and quality of water in an area expected to contain ice.’

PRIME-1 consists of two instruments: The Regolith and Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrain (TRIDENT) and the Mass Spectrometer observing lunar operations (MSolo).

TRIDENT will drill up to three feet deep, extracting lunar regolith, or soil, up to the surface.

The instrument was designed to drill in multiple segments, pausing and retracting to deposit cuttings on the surface after each depth increment.

TRIDENT will drill up to three feet deep, extracting lunar regolith, or soil, up to the surface. The instrument was designed to drill in multiple segments, pausing and retracting to deposit cuttings on the surface after each depth incremen

TRIDENT will drill up to three feet deep, extracting lunar regolith, or soil, up to the surface. The instrument was designed to drill in multiple segments, pausing and retracting to deposit cuttings on the surface after each depth incremen

Once samples are on the surface, MSolo will evaluate the drill cuttings for water and other chemical compounds. The tool is a mass spectrometer, which can measure the mass-to-charge ratio of ions

Once samples are on the surface, MSolo will evaluate the drill cuttings for water and other chemical compounds. The tool is a mass spectrometer, which can measure the mass-to-charge ratio of ions

Once samples are on the surface, MSolo will evaluate the drill cuttings for water and other chemical compounds.

The tool is a mass spectrometer, which can measure the mass-to-charge ratio of ions.

The instrument is used in drug testing and discovery, food contamination detection, pesticide residue analysis, isotope ratio determination, protein identification, and carbon dating.

‘The data from PRIME-1 will help scientists understand in-situ resources on the Moon, including resource location mapping,’ NASA shared.

‘PRIME-1 contributes to NASA’s search for water at the Moon’s poles, supporting the agency’s plans to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by the end of the decade.’

‘The data from PRIME-1 will help scientists understand in-situ resources on the Moon, including resource location mapping,’ NASA shared

‘The data from PRIME-1 will help scientists understand in-situ resources on the Moon, including resource location mapping,’ NASA shared

MSolo will search for specific compounds that signal water is below the surface

MSolo will search for specific compounds that signal water is below the surface

The space agency is eyeing 2026 for when it will put American boots back on the moon – the last time was in 1972.

Intuitive Machines revealed Friday that Odysseus is ‘alive in well.’

‘Flight controllers are communicating and commanding the vehicle to download science data. The lander has good telemetry and solar charging,’ the company shared on X.

During its 73-minute descent, Odysseus, or Oddie, slowed down from speeds of 4,000mph (6,500kph) to make a soft landing in an area pockmarked with craters. 

However, the mission nearly ended in failure when the craft was forced to switch to an experimental navigation system mid-landing.

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

The craft launched last week on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The uncrewed craft had been circling the moon about 57 miles above the surface since reaching orbit on Wednesday.

Odie remained ‘in excellent health’ as it continued to orbit the moon, roughly 239,000 miles from Earth, transmitting flight data and lunar images to Intuitive Machines’ mission control center in Houston, the company said on Wednesday.

But, as it moved into the final stages of the operation, Odie’s handlers discovered that the laser range-finders weren’t working.

This vital system is what allows the craft to determine how far it is above the lunar surface and can make the difference between a soft landing and a crash.

Using a last-minute software patch the engineers were able to convert NASA’s experimental Navigation Doppler Lidar, which was being carried in the payload, to take on the job.

At 6:11pm EST, Odysseus fired its engine for the crucial 11-minute burn, decelerating from 4,000mph (6,500kph) to just 2.2mph (3.5kph), 33ft above the surface.

Having slowed its fall, Odie landed safely on the rim of the giant Malapert A crater about 190 miles (300km) north of the moon’s South Pole.

After 15 tense minutes, the crew back on Earth finally received Odie’s signal, confirming that the landing had been a success.

Shortly after receiving the signal, Mission director Tim Crain said: ‘What we can confirm without a doubt is, our equipment is on the surface of the moon and we are transmitting.

‘Houston, Odysseus has found its new home.’

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson added, in a statement on X, that Odysseus had ‘aced the landing of a lifetime.’

The landing marks the first time since 1972 with the last Apollo mission that an American craft has made a successful landing on the moon.

Although the lander was built by Intuitive Machines, NASA partly funded the operation by buying cargo space aboard Odysseus.

This also marks the first moon landing using a rocket from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which was paid $130m (£103m) by Intuitive Machines for the launch.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a video congratulating all involved: ‘We’ve taken the moon.

‘Today for the first time in more than a half-century, the US has returned to the moon.

‘Today is a day that shows the power and promise of NASA’s commercial partnerships,’ he added.

‘Congratulations to everyone involved in this great and daring quest.’

The scale of this challenge is highlighted by the recent failures of other landing attempts.

Odie’s mission comes one month after another private company tried and failed to land on the moon.

Astrobotic Technology attempted to bring America back to the lunar surface with its Peregrine, but the lander suffered a propulsion system leak on its way shortly after being placed in orbit.

More recently, the Japanese SLIM lander successfully touched down on the moon but ended up stuck upside down due to an engine failure during landing.

The mission was made yet more difficult by Intuitive Machine’s choice of landing site.

The Malapert A Crater is a rocky area pockmarked with craters which could destabilize or topple a lander.

However, it is also believed that this region near the moon’s south pole could be rich in frozen water that could be essential to a future lunar base.



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