Space travel: US company wants to create the first commercial moon landing

After several failed attempts by various companies, another has set its sights on the first commercial moon landing.

Space travel: US company wants to create the first commercial moon landing

After several failed attempts by various companies, another has set its sights on the first commercial moon landing. The lander "Nova-C" from the US company Intuitive Machines took off from the Cape Canaveral spaceport in the US state of Florida on Thursday, as live images from the US space agency NASA showed. The means of transport was a “Falcon 9” rocket from technology billionaire Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX.

The start was postponed from Wednesday to Thursday for technical reasons. The temperatures of the methane fuel deviated from the norm, according to a statement from NASA. Shortly after the launch, NASA wrote on Platform X (formerly Twitter): The next commercial mission is on its way to the moon like an arrow from Cupid's bow. At first there were no signs of any problems.

Intuitive Machines hopes to land on the moon on February 22nd. It would be the first - albeit unmanned - US moon landing since the Apollo missions over 50 years ago and the first commercial landing on Earth's satellite in space history. The experiment is part of NASA's "CLPS" (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) program. With this program, the US space agency wants to collect as much knowledge as possible on its own way back to the moon comparatively cheaply and efficiently by awarding contracts for lunar landings to private companies and working with them. A total of around 2.6 billion dollars (around 2.4 billion euros) is budgeted for the “CLPS” program by 2028.

125 miniature stainless steel sculptures

Intuitive Machines will receive around $77 million for the experiment. The company was founded in 2013 by, among others, the US-Iranian entrepreneur Kam Ghaffarian, who is also behind the company Axiom Space, which has just sent astronauts to the International Space Station again on a commercial mission.

The "Nova-C" lander, nicknamed Odysseus, is about the size of an old-fashioned British telephone booth, has aluminum legs, weighs around 700 kilograms and can carry around 130 kilograms of cargo. NASA has occupied a large part of it with research equipment and other things, while commercial companies have secured the rest for their projects. The US artist Jeff Koons also sent along 125 miniature sculptures made of stainless steel. They are dedicated to people who have achieved significant achievements in human history.

"Odysseus" is expected to land in the southern region of the moon in a crater called "Malapert A". After a possible successful touchdown, the lander would be operational for approximately seven days, according to its manufacturers.

However, moon landings are considered to be technically extremely demanding - and often go wrong. This year alone, two planned landings have turned out differently than hoped: The US company Astrobotic, based in Pittsburgh, sent off the “Peregrine” capsule in January. Shortly after takeoff there were problems due to a malfunction in the propulsion system. The engineers were able to temporarily stabilize the capsule, but the goal of landing on the moon had to be abandoned. A few days later, "Peregrine" burned up in the Earth's atmosphere.

Shortly afterwards, the lander "SLIM" (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon) from the Japanese space agency Jaxa touched down gently on the moon, but initially had problems with the energy supply. “SLIM” was only able to go into operation after a power outage that lasted for days. This makes Japan the fifth country - after the USA, Russia, China and India - to successfully land on the moon unmanned. Last April, a Japanese company with a similar mission failed. Shortly after the planned landing time of "Hakuto-R" on the moon, the ispace company no longer received any data from the lander. The company assumes that he fell to the lunar surface in free fall. The reason she gave was an incorrect height calculation.