Houston-based company Intuitive Machines has been awarded $47 million by NASA to deliver a payload to the moon by December 2022. Said payload will include an ice-drilling machine along with a mass spectrometer.
The experiment, being called PRIME-1, will allow NASA to search for ice at and under the moon’s south pole. It will be the first mission ever to attempt to harvest ice from below the moon’s surface.
PRIME-1 is planned to land at the moon’s south pole and then drill 3 feet into the moon’s surface. It will then collect ice samples and use its mass spectrometer to measure how much ice turns into vapor due to the vacuum of space. NASA plans to take the PRIME-1 experiment’s information and apply it to the Artemis program, which hopes to put astronauts on the moon by 2024.
Intuitive Machines is only one of many companies that NASA has recruited under the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative (CLPS). This initiative is designed to send equipment to the moon to perform different experiments ahead of the Artemis mission.
The first of these missions were planned to take place in September of this year by company Orbit Beyond. Unfortunately, that mission never came to fruition as Orbit Beyond stated they could not meet the mission’s deadline. NASA terminated the task order with Orbit Beyond shortly after.