US Company, Intuitive Machines, Wants To Bring America Back To The Moon 

Intuitive Machines is a US company that is trying to get back to the moon in what would be the first American lunar landing in more than 50 years.

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Intuitive Machines is a private company based in Houston that has the goal of bringing America back to the moon in what would be the first lunar landing for the US in more than 50 years. As a part of this initiative, an uncrewed lunar lander, which launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida last week, is scheduled to land close to the moon’s south pole this Thursday. 

The lander itself is named Odysseus, and was sent on its mission by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. This initiative is very significant for America and its relationship with space travel. 

America is currently in a space race with itself. Private companies are attempting to get to the moon on their own accord, while NASA has a larger goal of exploring potentially habitable planets, and general otherworldly exploration. Trent Martin, Intuitive Machines vice president of space systems, spoke at a press conference recently regarding this new initiative.

“When you have unlimited funds like they did during the Apollo days, yes, you can do incredible things. Now, can we find a way to do it for a lower cost, where there is a marketplace that is not driven solely by government funds?”

Other private companies in the US, as well as Japan and Israel, have pursued attempts at lunar missions in the past, however, they were unsuccessful. 

NASA initially pulled off the moon landing during the Apollo era which ended in 1972. Now, both the space agency and private sectors want to get back to the moon at a lower cost. For NASA specifically, the agency has been subcontracting their work with private companies through their Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. 

For Intuitive Machines, the idea for the future is that NASA can use their technology to deliver supplies and equipment to astronauts. 

With this particular initiative, NASA stated it paid Intuitive Machines $118 million for the Odyssey lander mission. According to Thomas Zurbuchen, a former associate administrator for science at NASA who also ran cost estimations, it typically costs NASA between $500 million to $1 billion to build a lander. 

Joel Kearns, the deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s science mission directorate stated that they’re hoping to advance the missions accomplished during the Apollo Era.

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“We’re not trying to re-do Apollo. We’re going after scientific and technology studies that weren’t even envisioned back in the time of Apollo to answer major scientific questions. And we’re going to a region of the moon that people and robots have never been to.”

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NASA, Intuitive Machines, and other private companies are currently intrigued with the moon’s south pole specifically. The south pole has craters that are full of water ice. This water could be used to sustain humans or can be siphoned for rocket fuel, either way it would potentially extend space missions.

NASA is planning to send a group of instruments with the lander and will ideally bring back data and information about the moon’s environment. 

However, they’re not planning on getting their hopes up, as was previously mentioned the US and other nations have attempted lunar missions in recent years with no success. One of the biggest hurdles that these agencies have to overcome is budget. Where the Apollo era succeeded was their extensive budget, since space exploration was so new. 

The private sector efforts are also working with a different blueprint on these missions, using new technology, according to NASA.