Natural machines are ready to go to the moon. The company announced Monday that its first lunar lander has completed all final integration milestones and is now embedded in SpaceX's Falcon 9 payload fairing, where it will remain until launch on February 14.
The mission launch window opens at 12:57 AM EST; If weather or other problems delay the mission, SpaceX will have three days to execute the launch. The rough timeline comes down to the details of the mission: The lander is taking a direct trajectory to the moon, and it's targeting a site near the moon's south pole, where specific lighting conditions for landing are available only a few days each month.
It was the first lunar mission of natural machines. The Houston-based company was founded 11 years ago by Stephen Altemus, who serves as president and CEO; Tim Crain, CTO; and prolific aerospace industry entrepreneur Kim Gaffarian. The company was early See the commercial promise of the moon; It received its contract from NASA for this mission back in 2019. Most recently, though the transaction took place, Intuitive Machines went public in February 2023 through a merger with a special purpose acquisition firm. Generated less capital than previously estimated.
Many eyes will likely be on this mission following a failed attempt by another American company, Astrobotic, whose lander failed to reach the moon due to a catastrophic propellant leak. The spacecraft burned up in Earth's atmosphere on January 18 as part of a coordinated reentry plan.
The two companies were selected for their respective missions as part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, which is designed to solicit transportation services to the Moon from private industry. In total, NASA is paying Intuitive Machines $118 million to deliver its six science and technology payloads to the lunar surface.
The CLPS program is a key component of the agency's Artemis program; The idea is that commercial providers will deliver scientific payloads to the surface, which will collect data and inform future crewed moon missions.
In addition to the company's work on a lunar data relay service to both the lunar surface and cislunar space, a lunar rover and other technologies and services, Natural Machinery hopes to pave the way for commercial success in the early lunar economy. .
“The success of the IM-1 mission lays the foundation for a thriving lunar economy, opening new opportunities for research, commerce and exploration,” the company said in a press kit published last week. “By advancing our capabilities to operate on the lunar surface, the mission sets the stage for more ambitious endeavors, including the establishment of lunar bases and the exploration of potential resources.”
In addition to the six NASA payloads, the lander will also carry some commercial payloads for customers including Columbia Sportswear and contemporary artist Jeff Koons. The lander, called Odysseus, is expected to operate on the moon for seven days before the long and cold lunar night.