South Pole Chosen as New Landing Site for Intuitive Machines’ Lunar Mission

NASA has announced that it is moving the landing site for the first Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) mission to the Moon’s South Pole in collaboration with Intuitive Machines. The move is seen as a crucial step in managing risks for future Artemis landings. Intuitive Machines was awarded one of the first lunar payload deliveries under NASA’s CLPS initiative in May 2019. Its first flight, Intuitive Machines-1 (IM-1), will carry six NASA payloads on its Nova-C lunar lander to a site near the Malapert A crater. The NASA payloads will focus on demonstrating communication, navigation and precision landing technologies, and gathering scientific data about rocket plume and lunar surface interactions, as well as space weather and lunar surface interactions affecting radio astronomy. The decision to move from the original landing site in Oceanus Procellarum was based on a need to learn more about terrain and communications near the lunar South Pole, which is expected to be one of the best locations for a sustained human presence on the Moon. Landing near Malapert A will also help mission planners understand how to communicate and send data back to Earth from a location that is low on the lunar horizon. The landing date is expected in the third quarter of 2023.