Private Spacecraft Makes First US Moon Landing Since 1972

    Private Spacecraft Makes First US Moon Landing Since 1972
    Photo: NASA Handout/Getty Images News via Getty Images (2019)

    The Facts

    • Texas-based Intuitive Machines successfully landed its Odysseus robotic lander near the lunar south pole Thursday evening, marking the first American Moon landing since 1972 and the first moon landing by a private company.

    • Landing the Nova-C vehicle near the Malapert A crater — about 190 miles (300 km) from the Moon's south pole — was delayed by several hours, as flight controllers had to switch to experimental landing software following a problem with the navigation system.

    The Spin

    Narrative A

    The US is in a new space race against other countries, including China and India, but this one isn't about science — it's a gold rush to make up for plundering Earth's resources. The Moon can provide valuable supplies of ice water and other resources. Rather than solving problems on Earth, the world's great powers have shifted their competition into space, which will cause instability at home on our pale blue dot.

    Narrative B

    This mission isn't a chapter in some space race — it's a sign of how two of the world's great powers can cooperate. Chinese scientists will be able to use the technical equipment on board to carry out various astronomical observations, while US experts previously were able to use an ultraviolet telescope on China's Chang'e 3 lunar lander. Contrary to apocalyptic predictions, the Moon will not be the next site of a worldwide conflict.

    Nerd narrative

    There's an 11% chance that China will land the next person on the Moon, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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