HOUSTON — Houston-based Intuitive Machines completed construction of a mock-up lunar lander that will deliver payloads to the moon.

In November 2018, NASA announced nine U.S. companies were eligible to bid on NASA delivery services to the lunar surface through Commercial Lunar Payload Services contracts.

This is one of the first steps toward long-term scientific student human exploration of the moon and eventually Mars. 

NASA’s change in strategy from building to buying machines will allow the space agency to focus on furthering human exploration.

Based only miles from the Johnson Space Center, Intuitive Machines is the only Houston-based company awarded the contract.

“It’s a great opportunity for us,” said Intuitive Machines President and CEO, Steve Altemus. “I’m proud to be located here in Houston. I want to make this something special for the city of Houston and the people of Houston.”

Intuitive Machines is calling their lunar lander NOVA-C. It will be able to carry a payload of nearly 190 pounds, provide 24/7 data coverage and relocate sites after touching down on the moon. 

NASA has created a list outlining the types of payloads that will possibly be sent to the moon including seismic, communication and geological payloads.

“Our ability as Intuitive Machines is to blend the art and science of engineering and you get a product like this,” Altemus said. “It is an incredible machine flying totally autonomously to the surface of the moon.”

Altemus’ company and eight others are under a 10-year contract with NASA. Until NOVA-C starts launching payloads to moon, they won’t be paid; however, by the contract’s end, the nine companies will get paid a total of $2.6 billion. 

Intuitive Machines could send as many as four lunar landers to the moon per year.

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