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Hello and welcome back to the TechCrunch space. We're just two days away from Intuitive Machines' first mission to the moon. Pro tip: If you haven't already, check out this ultra thorough press kit on the mission — the company goes into a ton of detail about the lander architecture, the payloads on board, and everything that happens during the mission.

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In honor of the upcoming IM-1 launch, this week I'm highlighting an article I wrote about the mission when SpaceX and Intuitive Machines (finally) announced the date and time for lift-off. As many expected, they are targeting February 14th at 12:57 am EST, with an extra few days for backup in case weather or some other issue delays.

Natural Machines hopes to pave the way for commercial success in an early lunar economy, with the company saying in a press kit that the mission's success will open up new opportunities for research, trade and exploration, and lay the foundation for a thriving lunar economy. .”

Image Credits: Space Ex

Last week, I wrote about Interluon, a stealthy startup founded by X-Blue Origin leaders that closed $15 million in new funding.

But the rationale for raising capital is not well understood. Interlune, led by ex-Blue Origin president Robert Meyerson, kept things very close to the chest. Until now. Two of Interluon's secret pitch decks, dated spring 2022 and fall 2023 and viewed by TechCrunch, revealed the startup is seeking funding to build and test resource extraction hardware for the lunar Helium-3 (He-3).

Interlune Lunar Mining

Image Credits: Interlune

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SpaceX last week launched a $1 billion NASA Earth science satellite aboard a Falcon 9, capping nearly two decades of development and planning.

The Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean Ecosystem (PACE) spacecraft collects data on marine ecosystems, the ocean and our atmosphere, helping scientists better understand how the ocean and atmosphere exchange carbon, from phytoplankton to air quality.

“PACE is going to show ocean biology at a scale we've never seen before,” Karen St. Germain, director of NASA's Earth Science Division, told a media briefing.

SpaceX Pace Mission NASA

Image Credits: Space Ex

CNBC's Michael Sheetz spoke with seven bankers about the potential sale of United Launch Alliance and the three bidders currently in the running, including Blue Origin and aerospace contractor Textron. He takes a closer look at what the acquisition means for each of the buyers — and for the future of the launch.

Amazon branding on the ULA Atlas V rocket

Image Credits: Amazon / ULA

This week in space history

I finally have an excuse to use one of my favorite photographs from space history: Astronaut Bruce McCandless attempting to fly away from a space shuttle on February 12, 1984 using a nitrogen jet-propelled backpack. It was before.

Image Credits: NASA (Opens in a new window)

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