Message from the President: The First 21st Century Odyssey to the Moon

Did Odysseus land on ice?

On February 22nd, we made history with the landing of the first private enterprise lunar lander in world history as Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lander touched down about 300km from the Lunar South Pole near the crater Malapert, named after the 17th century astronomer Charles Malapert.  The lander took about six days to travel from Earth to the Moon, subsequently orbiting for another day before it began is descent.  For us down here on Earth we had a full moon which to view and appreciate the location of the landing which is at the Moon’s south pole and below the very noticeable giant crater Tyco.  Here is a shot I took with one of my telescopes where I label the landing site. 

Photograph by Alfredo Viegas

Intuitive’s success marks the first return to the Moon by a US led team this century and is a welcome relief from last month’s failed mission by another private enterprise, Astrobiotic who’s mission ran out of fuel within hours after launch due to a valve malfunction! 

NASA Picture of Odysseus

Also last month, Japan’s Space Agency landed its own lander, SLIM near the Shioli crater near the Moon’s equator, although it seems it actually landed upside down!  Apart from India’s Chandrayaan-3’s lander, Odysseus is the only other lander to touch down near the Lunar South Pole which is of very high interest to scientists because of the possibility of ice.  And Intuitive has a second mission getting ready for a follow-up journey later this year and this one will bring along a drill to see if it can find ice under the surface.   So the next time you take out your telescope and look at the Moon, lets remember tiny Odysseus is there looking back at us!

Alfredo Viegas is the President of AAA and he previously served as our Chairman of the Board.  He has a Master’s in Astronomy and has had a lifelong love of Astronomy since childhood.  He works in finance in New York City.