US companies are poised to launch to the moon on February 14, less than a month after a similar mission ended in failure with the spacecraft burning up in the Earth's atmosphere, NASA said.
SpaceX plans a 12:57 p.m. (05:57 GMT) launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with Intuitive Machines' Nova-C lander expected to land on the moon on February 22, in a crater near the south lunar pole. NASA paid Intuitive Machines more than $100 million to supply its science hardware for the mission, part of a broader strategy to boost the lunar economy and delegate routine cargo missions to the private sector. The Nova-C lander's payload includes instruments to better understand the lunar environment as NASA prepares to send humans to the celestial body under the Artemis program later this decade.
Only five nations have achieved a soft landing on the moon. The Soviet Union was the first, followed by the United States, which is still the only country to have sent men to the moon. China has achieved this three times in the past decade, followed by India and most recently Japan. The Japanese lander landed on January 20, but ended up on its side, leaving its solar panels intact.
Landing on the Moon is complicated by the treacherous terrain and lack of atmosphere, meaning parachutes are not an option and the spacecraft must use its thrusters to achieve a controlled descent. /BGNES, AFP