NASA awarded Intuitive Machines of Houston approximately $ 47 million to deliver a drill to the moon in combination with a mass spectrometer by December 2022 as part of an initiative by the Commercial Lunge Utility Agency. An experiment to extract ice from polar resources, known as PRIME-1, will help NASA search for ice at the Moon’s South Pole and collect ice beneath the surface for the first time.
“We continue to rapidly select suppliers from our pool of CLPS suppliers to land payloads on the lunar surface, an example of our work to integrate the ingenuity of the commercial industry into our efforts on the moon,” said NASA Assistant Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen. “The information we receive from PRIME-1 and other scientific instruments and technology demonstrations that we send to the lunar surface will communicate our Artemis missions with astronauts and help us better understand how we can create a sustainable lunar presence.”
PRIME-1 will land on the moon and drill up to 3 feet (about 1 meter) below the surface. Using a mass spectrometer, he will measure how much ice in the sample is lost to sublimation when the ice turns from solid to steam in a vacuum of the lunar environment. Versions of the PRIME-1 simulator and the lunar spectrometer, or MSolo, will also fly on VIPER, a mobile operation that will also search for ice at the lunar South Pole in 2023. NASA will place the first woman and the next man on the Moon’s South Pole next year.
“PRIME-1 will give us a huge understanding of the resources on the moon and how to get them,” said Jim Reuters, associate administrator of NASA’s Washington Office of Space Engineering. “Sending this payload to the moon is a stunning example of how our scientific and technological communities, together with our commercial partners, are developing breakthrough technologies to achieve a number of goals on the lunar surface.”
The STMD Game Development Program is funded by PRIME-1. Honeybee Robotics in Pasadena, California, is developing ice to produce ice. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, in collaboration with INFICON in Syracuse, New York, is developing a mass spectrometer.
PRIME-1 data will help scientists understand the natural resources on the moon. PRIME-1 facilitates NASA’s search for water at the moon’s poles, supporting the agency’s plans to create a sustainable human presence on the moon by the end of the decade. Early use of the PRIME-1 drill and MSolo helps increase the likelihood of these payloads working reliably on the VIPER mobile platform next year.
Through the CLPS initiative, NASA is using its commercial partners to quickly land scientific instruments and demonstrate technology on the moon with the first flights scheduled for next year. A key part of NASA’s Artemis program, CLPS flights will support a series of robotic lunar actions on the eve of man’s return to the moon, as well as during this decade.