America is back on the moon.

An uncrewed spacecraft developed by Houston-based Intuitive Machines landed on the lunar surface Thursday evening, the first time a U.S. vehicle has touched down there in more than 50 years.

The company’s Odysseus vehicle, carrying research and commercial devices, descended from lunar orbit to land shortly after 6:20 p.m. ET in the moon’s south pole region, according to a National Aeronautics and Space Administration livestream.

“Today for the first time in the history of humanity, a commercial company—an American company—launched and led the voyage up there,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said.

The U.S. last visited the surface of the moon in 1972, during the final mission of the storied Apollo program.

Thursday’s operation was a milestone for the U.S. space industry and program, marking the first time a private company has completed a moon landing. Past attempts by other companies have failed, and successfully landing on the lunar surface has even challenged governments.

It wasn’t immediately clear after touchdown that the lander made it, leading to several tense moments before Intuitive Machines said it was able to start communicating with the vehicle and confirm its arrival.

“I know this was a nail-biter, but we are on the surface and we are transmitting,” Intuitive Machines Chief Executive Stephen Altemus said during the livestream. “Welcome to the moon.”

Intuitive Machines’ vehicle is carrying NASA research devices under a $118 million contract, as well as commercial cargo, including a sculpture project from artist Jeff Koons . The company and its customers are expected to have about a week to run devices before lunar night sets over the site where Odysseus landed, rendering it inoperable.

NASA has historically handled moon flights in house, overseeing vehicles and mission operations. Several years ago, the agency hired U.S. space companies, including Intuitive Machines, to develop uncrewed landers and land them to the surface with cargo in tow.

Engineers and technicians at the companies designing the spacecraft and missions have been pushing to find ways to get to the moon without expansive government funding.

Landing on the moon is difficult. Attempted visits by a Japanese company and Russia’s space agency failed to softly touch down last year. In January, a moon vehicle developed by Astrobotic Technology didn’t attempt a landing because of a fuel leak.

Part of the challenge is slowing vehicles down through the moon’s extremely thin atmosphere as they try to touch down.

Intuitive Machines has said it designed Odysseus to ease down to the surface, reducing its velocity by about one mile a second to land at a speed of roughly 3 feet a second. SpaceX launched Odysseus on its trip to the moon on Feb. 15 from Florida.

NASA is driving efforts to eventually return U.S. astronauts to the lunar surface, overseeing work by U.S. aerospace contractors to develop rockets, space suits and other vehicles for a series of planned missions. The agency last month delayed a planned human return to the moon to September 2026 at the earliest.

Intuitive Machines was founded around a decade ago by two of the company’s current top executives and investor Kam Ghaffarian. The company has said it aims to develop services and technology for a busy economy centered on the moon.

A year ago Intuitive Machines merged with a blank-check firm to raise money and have shares start trading publicly. The company generated $49 million in revenue during the first nine months of last year and reported an operating loss of more than $50 million over that time frame.

Its stock has swung around since the company completed its listing. Shares closed at $2.11 in early January, and settled at $8.28 on Thursday. After the landing was confirmed, the company’s shares surged about 27% in after-hours trading.

Write to Micah Maidenberg at