“Lunar Lander Deployed”: SpaceX Rocket Launches US Spacecraft Towards Moon

At 0105 ET, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, propelling an American spacecraft successfully into space and, in one week, could be the first US lander to touch down on the lunar surface since the Apollo 17 moon landing in 1972.

Called Nova-C, the spacecraft is built by Houston-based Intuitive Machines. It will attempt to land on the lunar surface next Thursday (Feb 22). This will be the fourth attempt to reach the moon after three other failed attempts, including one by a US firm, another by a Japanese company, and a third by an Israeli nonprofit. 

In an interview quoted by the New York Times, Stephen Altemus, the president and chief executive of Intuitive Machines, stated: “I feel fairly confident that we’re going to be successful softly touching down on the moon,” adding, “We’ve done the tests. We tested and tested and tested. As much testing as we could do.”

NASA is the top customer of this mission, paying Intuitive Machines $118 million to take several payloads to the lunar surface, including a stereo camera to monitor lunar dust and a radio receiver to measure the effects of charged particles on various types of radio signals. 

In about a week’s time, Nova-C will enter the moon’s orbit at the 62-mile mark above the surface. Twenty-four hours later, the spacecraft will fire its engines and descend to the surface. The touchdown area is near Malapert’s crater, about 185 miles from the south pole. 

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