Intuitive Machines is set to launch its first Nova-C-class lunar lander to the surface of the Moon.
The mission, part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative and the Artemis campaign, is scheduled for no earlier than 12:57 a.m. on Wednesday, February 14, 2024.
The historic liftoff will take place from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
“Their tireless efforts have brought us to this moment, where we stand on the brink of history, humbled by the gravity of our mission, but emboldened by the limitless possibilities that lie ahead,” said President and CEO Steve Altemus, on the deep meaning of the mission.
The Nova-C lunar lander has successfully completed all integration milestones and is now safely encapsulated within SpaceX’s payload fairing, ready for its journey to the Moon.
The spacecraft will land in Malapert A, a satellite crater near the lunar south polar region. This area, named after 17th-century Belgian astronomer Charles Malapert, is composed of lunar highland material similar to the Apollo 16 landing site.
Located approximately 300 km from the Moon’s south pole, the IM-1 landing site is strategically located near the Malapert Massif, one of 13 candidate regions under consideration for NASA’s Artemis III mission.
The selection of this landing site underscores the importance of the mission in supporting future human exploration and the establishment of a sustainable human presence on the lunar surface.
The launch comes weeks after the loss of the program’s first private mission when the Peregrine lunar lander failed after launch due to a fuel leak. The spacecraft was carrying NASA payloads for the Moon.
As the world awaits launch, the mission carries not only scientific instruments and technology payloads, but also humanity’s aspirations to push the boundaries of our knowledge and capabilities in space.
The success of the IM-1 mission will pave the way for subsequent missions and the eventual return of humans to the Moon, as envisioned by NASA’s Artemis program.