Capitalism in space: NASA yesterday awarded Intuitive Machines its third contract to use its Nova-C lander to deliver four science instruments in 2024 to an unusual geological feature on the Moon.
The investigations aboard Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander are destined for Reiner Gamma, one of the most distinctive and enigmatic natural features on the Moon. Known as a lunar swirl, Reiner Gamma is on the western edge of the Moon, as seen from Earth, and is one of the most visible lunar swirls. Scientists continue to learn what lunar swirls are, how they form, and their relationship to the Moon’s magnetic field.
…Intuitive Machines will receive $77.5 million for the contract and is responsible for end-to-end delivery services, including payload integration, delivery from Earth to the surface of the Moon, and payload operations. This is Intuitive Machines’ third task order award, the first of which is a delivery to Oceanus Procellarum on the Moon during the first quarter of 2022. This award is the seventh surface delivery task award issued to a CLPS partner.
Below is the present schedule for these commercial unmanned lunar landers:
- 2022: Astrobotic to deliver 11 instruments to the crater Lacus Mortis.
- 2022: Intuitive Machines to deliver 6 payloads to Oceanus Procellarum.
- 2022: Intuitive Machines to deliver a drill and two instruments to the lunar south pole.
- 2023: Firefly to deliver 10 instruments to Mare Crisium.
- 2023: Masten to deliver nine instruments to the lunar south pole region.
- 2023: Astrobotic to deliver VIPER rover to lunar south pole region.
- 2024: Intuitive Machines to deliver 4 payloads to Reiner Gamma.
No one should be surprised if some of these landers fail. The goal of this program is to jumpstart a commercial industry of private lunar landers, which is why NASA is awarding so many contracts. Some will fail. Some will succeed. In the end both NASA and the general public will have several competing options for landing payloads on the Moon.
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