Space company Intuitive Machines edges closer to historic moon mission

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Space-exploration company Intuitive Machines has announced plans for the launch of its commercial lunar lander, which could happen next week.

The company’s goal is for the Nova-C lander to be the first private U.S. probe on the moon.

With its launch partner SpaceX, Intuitive Machines

is aiming for a multiday launch window that begins at 12:57 a.m. Eastern time on Feb. 14, the company said Monday. The lander has completed all integration milestones and is safely encapsulated within SpaceX’s payload fairing in preparation for launch from the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, according to Intuitive Machines.

Related: Space stock Intuitive Machines climbs ahead of historic commercial moon-landing mission

The launch is timed for the monthly lunar blackout period. Nova-C will land near the moon’s south pole, where the correct lighting conditions are available for only a few days each month.

The IM-1 mission marks the company’s first lunar landing attempt within NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, which is part of the Artemis program to eventually return U.S. astronauts to the moon.

The lander will carry five NASA payloads, as well as commercial cargo. The mission’s scientific objectives include studies of plume-surface interactions, radio astronomy and space-weather interactions with the lunar surface, according to NASA.

Related: These are the space stocks to keep an eye on in 2024

Commercial moon landings are important scouting missions for the Artemis program. Last month, NASA said it is now targeting September 2025 for its first crewed Artemis mission around the moon and September 2026 for its Artemis mission to land astronauts near the lunar south pole. 

Last month, private U.S. space company Astrobotic Technology ended its troubled mission to place a lander on the moon.

Shares of Intuitive Machines ended Tuesday’s session down 1.1%. The stock has fallen 65.5% in the last 52 weeks, compared with the S&P 500 index’s
gain of 19%.

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