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Intuitive Machines beams back first lander photos from space

Published Feb 19th, 2024 3:40PM EST
IM-1 mission lander, Nova C
Image: Intuitive Machines

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Last week, Intuitive Machines launched its IM-1 mission into space, sending the first Nova-C lander on its way toward the moon. It’s the first mission to include Columbia’s Omni-Heat technology on the lander, and if it is successful, it will become the first private lander on the moon. Now, we’ve finally received our first IM-1 photos from space.

The photos, which were captured shortly after the lander separated from SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage, show the Earth in the background, as well as the second stage of the rocket falling away. All but one of the images appear to be taken from a fish-eye camera lens, but they provide a good look at the lander’s bottom as it flies away from our planet.

Of course, these first IM-1 photos are only a small part of the journey that the Odysseus lander has to make as it heads all the way to our lunar satellite. Once there, it will hopefully land on the surface successfully, providing the various payloads onboard a chance to extend and begin working.

This mission has a lot riding on it, too. Not only has Intuitive Machines been working hard to make this mission happen, but it could also be the first evidence that NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) has been successful. Other landers involved in the CLPS have met untimely ends, including the latest, the Peregrine lander, which suffered a propellant leak that led to it burning back up in Earth’s atmosphere.

These kinds of missions are important because they will help NASA and other agencies learn more about the moon with cheaper launches. This information will then help scientists better prepare the Artemis mission astronauts and further slim down what kind of focus they want to have on research during those missions.

Intuitive Machines shares these first IM-1 photos on X (formerly Twitter), and we expect more images to arrive over the coming days as the spacecraft prepares for its moon landing.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.