The U.S. is just hours away from witnessing Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lunar lander attempt to touch down near Malapert A in the South Pole region of the moon. 

If successful, it will be the first American spacecraft to land on the moon since the last crewed Apollo mission more than 50 years ago. The last time an American spacecraft touched down on the moon was in 1972 during the Apollo 17 mission.

The target landing is slated for “no earlier than 5:30 p.m.” ET Thursday, according to a NASA press release. The mission is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative and Artemis campaign.

“Upon successful landing, Intuitive Machines and NASA will host a news conference to discuss the mission and science opportunities that lie ahead as the company begins lunar surface operations,” the release said. 

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A SpaceX rocket carried the Houston-based company’s Nova-C lander, also referred to as Odysseus, from Florida shortly after 1 a.m. on Feb. 15 on a Falcon 9 rocket departing from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. The launch unfolded after a lunar lander from Astrobotic Technology encountered propulsion difficulties during a mission in January and failed to reach the moon. 

The uncrewed spacecraft has been circling the moon about 57 miles above the surface since reaching orbit on Wednesday and remained “in excellent health” while roughly 239,000 miles from Earth, transmitting flight data and lunar images to Intuitive Machines’ mission control center in Houston, the company told Reuters. 

NASA said in a statement that the instruments onboard the lander “will conduct scientific research and demonstrate technologies to help us better understand the Moon’s environment and improve landing precision and safety in the challenging conditions of the lunar south polar region, paving the way for future Artemis astronaut missions.” 

SPACEX ROCKET BLASTS OFF CARRYING INTUITIVE MACHINES’ MOON LANDER

SpaceX rocket launches in Florida carrying moon lander

Moon lander in space

 

Live landing coverage begins at 4 p.m. ET on NASA+, NASA Television, the NASA app and the agency’s website. 

FOX Business’ Greg Norman and Reuters contributed to this report.

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