SpaceX launches first commercial lunar lander to the moon

SpaceX has launched its first commercial lunar lander, Nova-C, into orbit today (November 26th), sending it on a path around the moon. The lander is intended to demonstrate its capabilities ahead of future missions and is carrying several payloads and experiments towards the lunar surface.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 5:55 PM EST from Space Launch Complex 40. The rocket sent the lander into a circular orbit, traveling at a speed of 37,000 mph, which is a particularly challenging trajectory to achieve. This orbit will eventually allow the Nova-C lander to descend and land on the Moon.

Among the payloads on board are NASA's P14 payload, which will take images of the lunar surface and measure radiation dosage throughout the mission and the agency's Mass Memory System, which will test technology that will allow future spacecraft to survive the lunar atmosphere also known as the "lunar tumble". The lander will also be taking 11 mementos to the moon's surface, including a photograph of the Panchen Lama and a comic book issue of Superman.

This launch makes SpaceX the third company to send a lander to the moon, after Astrobotic Technology inc. and Intuitive Machines. Nova-C is also the first privately funded commercial mission to fly to the Moon.

Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, said that the company plans to eventually launch a fully-fledged mission to Mars, dubbed the "Starship", which is expected to launch in the coming years. This mission will entail sending humans to the Martian surface and establishing a base there.

This launch is a part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, which aims to foster commercial partnerships to accelerate opportunities for lunar exploration.

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