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I am now running my annual July fund-raising campaign to celebrate the twelfth anniversary of the establishment of Behind the Black. For many reasons, mostly political but partly ethical, I do not use Google, Facebook, Twitter. These companies practice corrupt business policies, while targeting conservative websites for censoring, facts repeatedly confirmed by news stories and by my sense that Facebook has taken action to prevent my readers from recommending Behind the Black to their friends.


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Intuitive Machines awards SpaceX another lunar lander launch contract

Intuitive Machines Nova-C lunar lander
Artist’s impression of Intuitive Machines lunar lander,
on the Moon

Capitalism in space: Intuitive Machines announced yesterday that it has awarded SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket the launch contract for its third unmanned lunar lander, making SpaceX its carrier for all three.

The key quote however from the article is this:

Intuitive Machines’ first two lander missions are carrying out task orders for NASA awarded under its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. However, IM-3 is not linked to any CLPS missions. Marshall said that the mission “has an open manifest for commercial and civil customers.”

In other words, this third launch is being planned as an entirely private lunar robotic mission. Intuitive Machines is essentially announcing that it will launch the lander and has room for purchase for anyone who wants to send a payload to the Moon. This opportunity is perfect for the many universities that have programs teaching students how to build science payloads and satellites. For relatively little, a school can offer its students the chance to fly something to the lunar surface. Not only will it teach them how to build cutting edge engineering, it will allow those students to do cutting edge exploration.

This is the whole concept behind the recommendations I put forth in my 2016 policy paper, Capitalism in Space. If the government will simply buy what it needs from the private sector, and let that sector build and own what it builds, that sector will construct things so that their products can be sold to others, and thus expand the market.

Since around 2018 NASA and the federal government has apparently embraced those recommendations, and we are about to see that policy bear fruit in unmanned lunar exploration. Below is a list of all planned robotic lander missions to the Moon, all scheduled for the next four years:

That’s nine lander/rovers, and all arriving on the Moon hopefully before 2024. While the majority are carrying government payloads, all also include private payloads. The private market for commercial planetary exploration is certainly heating up.

Furthermore, this list leaves out NASA’s manned lunar program, which is also shifting more and more to this commercial model.

The list above also reinforces what I have noted previously: SpaceX is garnering more than 90% of the launch market for these privately built lunar landers. It is doing so because its rockets are the cheapest available at this time, and are also most likely to launch on time with few problems.

Other rocket companies, such as Blue Origin, ULA, and Northrop Grumman, have an opportunity here, if they simply will start to compete. Their failure to do so, however, has left almost the entire market to SpaceX.

Conscious Choice cover

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • Richard M

    “SpaceX is garnering more than 90% of the launch market for these privately built lunar landers.”

    And the only one it didn’t get, the Astrobotics lander, was basically, as I understand it, virtually a giveaway, since ULA wanted some kind of payload on its first test launch of Vulcan.

    Still, it would be nice to see Relativity and Rocket Lab getting a little of this business by the mid-2020’s when they get their medium class launchers online. Lord knows, I have no confidence that ULA or Blue Origin will be able to compete for them.

  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “SpaceX is garnering more than 90% of the launch market for these privately built lunar landers. It is doing so because its rockets are the cheapest available at this time, and are also most likely to launch on time with few problems.

    One of Space Exploration Technologies Corp’s (SpaceX) goals is reducing the cost of access to space so that commercial space exploration would be possible. It is succeeding.

    In the 1990s, Dr. Alan Binder tried to build the Lunar Prospector satellite on commercial funding, but because it was competing with governments, Dr. Binder had difficulty finding the last $10 million to complete the $25 million project as a commercial enterprise. Eventually, he had to get NASA funding, which meant NASA control, and NASA bureaucracy and costs. NASA now gets all the credit for the mission, bragging that they did it for $62 million. To me, that means that they spent that much to do $10 million worth of work.

    The bureaucracy imposed upon the scientists and engineers at NASA is costly.

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