The race to the moon is heating up as private companies and governments alike are vying to be the first to land on the lunar surface. In a recent announcement, Intuitive Machines has confirmed that their IM-1 moon mission will be delayed by a few months and will now be landing at the moon’s south pole in June instead of the spring.
This ambitious mission is part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, which is a collection of rovers, landers, and other equipment all bound for the moon. This will be the first time a private company has successfully landed on the moon and it is an incredible milestone for space exploration.
The mission is set to serve as a scientific scout for astronauts on the Artemis program, who are aiming to land on the lunar surface as soon as 2025. Intuitive Machines’ mission is expected to positively impact their backlog, and the company is also planning to launch a lunar “hopper” called Micro Nova (μNova) on board their IM-2 mission. This hopper could bounce as far as 15.5 miles (25 km) across the surface, and may even reach permanently shadowed craters rich in water ice.
The south pole of the moon is believed to be rich in water ice, and is the primary reason why there is such an interest in landing equipment there. Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 mission will be carrying five NASA science experiments aboard its Nova-C lander to further study the moon’s composition and history.
The Pittsburgh-based company Astrobotic is also slated to touch down on the moon this year, bearing NASA gear on its Peregrine lunar lander. A Japanese company, ispace, is also en route to the moon and may touch down before the American efforts.
The race to the moon is an exciting one, and it will be incredible to witness the first private moon landing. Intuitive Machines’ IM-1 mission is set to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, and will hopefully be the first of many successful private moon landings.