On a mission: Privately owned US lunar lander inches toward an ‘out of this world’ record

A private U.S. lunar lander reached the moon’s orbit on Wednesday, one day before it will attempt an even greater feat — touching the surface.

A lunar touchdown would put the U.S. back on the moon for the first time since 1972, the year NASA terminated the Apollo program. If all goes as planned, the Houston-based Intuitive Machines will become the first private outfit to nail a moon landing.

Launched last week atop a Falcon 9 rocket, the 6-foot NOVA-C lander fired its engine from the far side of the moon while out of contact with Earth. Flight controllers at the company’s headquarters waited in the unknown until the spacecraft emerged to discover if the lander was in orbit or hurtling aimlessly away.

This image from a video provided by SpaceX via NASA TV shows Intuitive
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