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US company set to land on Moon for the first time in 40 years today

US company set to land on Moon for the first time in 40 years today

If it's successful it will be the first US Moon landing since the final mission of the Apollo programme more than five decades ago.

The US is on track to make its first landing on the Moon in over 50 years.

And that's not the only interesting thing about this lunar landing - the Nova-C Odysseus spacecraft would be the first private mission to touch down in outer space.

Odysseus was built by Texas-based space flight company Intuitive Machines (IM) - it blasted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida last week, on top of a Falcon 9 rocket made by none other than Elon Musk's SpaceX company.

GREGG NEWTON / Contributor / Getty

The spacecraft is now in lunar orbit, and later today will try land on the Moon's south pole region.

If successful, it'll be the first US Moon landing than since the final mission of the Apollo programme - Apollo 17 - more than 50 years ago.

IM has had a helping hand to get to this point - Odysseus is part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, which aims to involve commercial companies in the exploration of the Moon.

And it would be absolutely huge if it comes off without a hitch, as it could pave the way for astronauts landing on the Moon as part of NASA's long-awaited Artemis programme.

Intuitive Machines/NASA/PA

The research that Odysseus might be able to do could also be groundbreaking. The south pole is thought to contain water ice, which would be a valuable resource for future human exploration, so we're understandably keen to find out as much as we can about it.

It's been a busy period up in space, but not always a successful one. Last month another US spacecraft, Peregrine, failed to touch down on the Moon following a fuel leak.

It was the third time a private company had failed to achieve a soft landing on the lunar surface, so we're sure IM has higher hopes for its spacecraft.

So far, controlled lunar landings have only been performed by government agencies - including the US, Soviet Union, China, India and Japan.

NASA/Intuitive Machines

While Odysseus is hoping to capture vital scientific research, it's also carrying some less technical cargo - like a set of 125 tiny sculptures, called Moon Phases, by American artist Jeff Koons.

And Odysseus might be the most fashionable spacecraft out there, considering it's insulated with a lightweight fabric - a shimmery gold material that normally lines the insides of ski jackets, made by US brand Columbia Sportswear.

IM said the descent will be “like walking towards a door and closing your eyes the last three feet”.

It added: “You know you’re close enough, but your inner ear must lead you through the door.”

Featured Image Credit: GREGG NEWTON / Contributor / Anadolu / Contributor / Getty