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Billionaire Elon Musk-owned SpaceX has said that its Falcon 9 rockets have now completed 300 successful missions. In a post on Musk-owned social media site X (formerly known as Twitter), the space tech company said: “Falcon 9 completes its 300th successful mission”.

Earlier this month on February 15, Houston-based aerospace company, Intuitive Machines, successfully launched its moon lander, the Nova-C lander named Odysseus, from Florida. The mission marked the first US lunar touchdown in over half a century and the initial one by a privately owned spacecraft, Reuters reported.

The Nova-C lander, Odysseus, took off shortly after 1 am EST (0600 GMT) atop a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket provided by SpaceX, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. A live online video feed from NASA and SpaceX displayed the 25-story rocket lifting off, creating a fiery yellowish plume of exhaust over Florida’s Atlantic coast.

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Future Plans and Lunar Exploration

Odysseus is expected to reach its destination near the moon’s south pole on February 22, after a weeklong flight. A successful landing would represent the first controlled descent by a US spacecraft since the final Apollo mission in 1972 and the first by a private company.

Intuitive Machines plans further lunar missions, with IM-2 scheduled to land at the lunar south pole in 2024, followed by an IM-3 mission later in the year with small rovers.

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This mission aligns with NASA’s strategy of leveraging private companies to reduce costs for the Artemis program, which aims to precede human exploration of Mars. In contrast to the Apollo era, where NASA owned and operated technology, the Artemis missions involved purchasing services from private companies.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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Published: 21 Feb 2024, 06:54 AM IST

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