Striking images of Earth beamed back by private Moon lander

US vehicle due to attempt lunar landing on February 22

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A Moon lander developed by a US company has sent photos with a striking backdrop of Earth, days before it attempts to land on the lunar surface.

The Odysseus landing vehicle, built by Intuitive Machines for its IM-1 mission, was launched on Thursday aboard a SpaceX rocket from a Florida spaceport and is expected to attempt touchdown on Thursday.

If successful, it would become the first private mission to land on the surface, after previous failures by an American, an Israeli and a Japanese company.

It would also be the first US Moon landing since the last Apollo mission in 1972.

"Intuitive Machines successfully transmitted its first IM-1 mission images to Earth," the company posted on X, formerly Twitter, along with the photos.

"The images were captured shortly after separation from SpaceX's second stage on Intuitive Machines’ first journey to the Moon under Nasa's CLPS [commercial lunar payload services] initiative."

The company was contracted by Nasa to send six of its payloads to the Moon, featuring technology that tests weather in space and lunar surface interactions, radio astronomy and precision landing.

CLPS is helping to create easier access to the Moon by contracting companies, similar to how Nasa hires SpaceX to carry astronauts to the International Space Station.

A mission by another American company, Astrobotic, failed in an attempt to land on the Moon this year.

Its Peregrine lander suffered a fuel leak shortly after separating from its launch rocket.

The Odysseus will attempt a landing near a crater in the Moon's southern pole.

India last year became the first nation to land on an uncharted part of the lunar surface, its Vikram lander touching down near the Moon's southern pole in August.

Updated: March 05, 2024, 10:55 AM