US firm aims for first commercial moon landing

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STORY: The moon may soon be open for business.

If all goes to plan, a SpaceX rocket will launch the first commercial lunar lander within weeks.

The Nova-C probe is the brainchild of Texas firm Intuitive Machines.

It was shown off on Wednesday (October 3), before being shipped to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A launch from there is pencilled in for mid-November.

Intuitive Machines Chief Technology Officer Tim Crain says it’s a one-way trip this time:

“So, from the time we launch to the time we land is less than seven days. Once we're on the surface of the moon, we will operate as long as the sun is in the sky, which for the moon will be about 12 to 13 days. Unfortunately, once the sun goes down, it gets extremely cold at the moon and the vehicle systems will most likely freeze and that'll be the end of the first mission. It will not return.”

The mission is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services project.

It’s meant to make moon trips more efficient by letting private firms bid on delivering gear to the Earth satellite.

That’s ahead of a planned resumption of manned missions.

Nova-C will collect data on things like how its rocket plume interacts with the lunar surface.

But Intuitive Machines President Steve Altemus has a longer-term goal too.

He wants to turn the moon into a profitable destination for private enterprise:

“Well, I think about what materials are there at the moon. We're only beginning to understand the materials on the moon. And I think there's materials that are worth something. Not only from a science and discovery standpoint, but maybe from a consumer goods standpoint. Is there something in that material that the Earth needs? Rare metals, Helium three…you know, what is it?”

If it succeeds, Nova-C will be making the first soft landing on the moon by a U.S. craft since the last Apollo mission in 1972.

NASA’s new Artemis programme now plans to land astronauts on the moon again by late 2025.