NASA selected Houston-based company Intuitive Machine to land an ice-mining drill on the moon’s south pole by December 2022.
The space agency agreed to pay Intuitive Machines $47 million to land Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment (PRIME-1) on the moon in the first-ever mining mission to drill below the lunar surface, in search of water ice. A mass spectrometer will be used to determine how much of the ice changes from solid to vapor on the lunar surface vacuum. The data will assist NASA’s rover, the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER), searching for water ice at the moon’s pole to determine an area that will support a human presence in 2024.
“We continue to rapidly select vendors from our pool of Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program vendors to land payloads on the lunar surface, which exemplifies our work to integrate the ingenuity of commercial industry into our efforts at the Moon,” said NASA’s Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen.
“The information we’ll gain from PRIME-1 and other science instruments and technology demonstrations we’re sending to the lunar surface will inform our Artemis missions with astronauts and help us better understand how we can build a sustainable lunar presence,” said Zurbuchen.
Intuitive Machines will fly the 88-pound PRIME-1 to the moon no later than December 2022 on its NOVA-C lander as part of CLPS. The company is one of several space firms selected by NASA to conduct robotic missions on the moon.