New Delhii: It was a historic moment for the United States as the Odysseus spacecraft softly landed on the moon on Thursday (local time), breaking a 50-year hiatus since the last American lunar landing. The Nova-C lander, developed by Intuitive Machines (IM) – a commercial space company – also achieved a remarkable feat by becoming the first privately-owned spacecraft to reach the lunar surface. This was the first time an American spacecraft had made a soft landing on the moon since the end of the Apollo program in 1972.

The Odysseus landing followed India’s successful lunar mission in August 2023, when the Chandrayaan-3 lander became the first Indian spacecraft to land safely on the moon. India also accomplished a historic first by landing a robotic rover on the lunar South Pole, a region that had never been explored before in the 21st century.

LIVE NOW: NASA science is landing on the Moon aboard @Int_Machines’ uncrewed Nova-C lander, named Odysseus.

This is the first time an American commercial lunar lander has made it to orbit around the Moon. — NASA (@NASA) February 22, 2024

“We are on the surface, and we are transmitting,” Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus announced on the webcast. “Welcome to the moon.” The company has not yet confirmed the status of the lander, but it has established contact with the moon. The Odysseus spacecraft landed near Malapert A, a crater near the moon’s south pole.

According to NASA, this site is “(A) relatively flat and safe region is within the heavily cratered southern highlands on the side of the Moon visible from Earth.” The spacecraft faced some communication issues before landing, and it missed the expected landing time.

However, an Intuitive Machines flight controller reported that the lander was “not dead yet” and they had received a “faint signal”. The US is the only country that has sent humans to the moon, with the last manned mission being Apollo 17 in 1972. NASA said it selected this landing site for Intuitive Machines’ first mission because it wanted to learn more about the lunar environment and how communications work in this area. NASA also has plans to explore the lunar south pole because it believes it is the ideal location for a future astronaut base.