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NASA has selected Intuitive Machines to deliver the Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment (PRIME-1) drill, combined with a mass spectrometer, to the Moon by December 2022.

The ice drilling mission is the Houston-based company’s second Moon contract award under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. “Laying the foundation to return humans to the Moon is an incredible […] challenge,” said Steve Altemus, President and CEO. “At Intuitive Machines, we’re hungry for the pursuit of these audacious missions that will redefine what a small business is capable of.”

Intuitive Machines, a leading provider and supplier of space products and services, will deliver the 88lb payload to the Moon as a precursor to the TRIDENT drill and the MSOLO that will fly on VIPER, a mobile robot that will search for water and ice at the Moon’s South Pole. PRIME-1 will drill into the lunar surface, harvest and bring ice to the surface, and use a mass spectrometer to measure how much is lost to sublimination as it turns from solid into vapor in a vacuum. Data from the PRIME-1 mission will help scientists understand how VIPER can search for water and how much there may be available to use as NASA plans to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by the end of the decade. “Establishing a sustainable human presence on the Moon requires the success of the CLPS initiative,” said Altemus. “We have a tremendous responsibility to NASA and opportunity to animate humankind’s pursuit of knowledge through exploration.”

PRIME-1 will drill for, retrieve and harvest ice from below the lunar surface. (Image: Intuitive Machines)

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