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Small Biz Insider: Houston Co. Counting Down to Historic Moon Missions

Published Apr 29, 2021 by Maggie Martin

Intuitive Machines

Steve Altemus is president and CEO of Intuitive Machines. Photo courtesy of Intuitive Machines.

Small Biz Insider

Render of Intuitive Machine's Nova-C lunar lander, which will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket to the Moon in 2021. Photo courtesy of Intuitive Machines.

A Houston-based company is headed for the Moon this year. Intuitive Machines, founded in 2013, is developing a lunar lander to launch later this fall. The company contracted SpaceX to launch its Nova-C spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket. The company also selected SpaceX for its second lunar mission scheduled for 2022. 

The lunar landing later this year is one of many "firsts" for Intuitive Machines. The company was also the first based at the Houston Spaceport's location at Ellington Field. 

On this episode of the Small Biz Insider podcast, we talk with Intuitive Machines President and CEO Steve Altemus about his company's upcoming lunar missions, the future of space exploration through public-private partnerships and Houston's strengths in aerospace innovation. Highlights from this episode below.

On how upcoming lunar missions are historic

The company's upcoming mission to the Moon later this year is the first kind of lunar landing assessment for the U.S. since the Apollo mission nearly 50 years ago. With this robotic landing, Intuitive Machines joins NASA's new era of lunar exploration. 

"And so here we are, a small business in Houston Space City, returning the United States to the Moon," said Altemus. 

Intuitive Machine's CEO said the second lunar mission next year to land an ice-mining drill on the south pole of the Moon is notable because no government or business has ever touched down on the lunar south pole. 

Intuitive Machines is preparing to announce a third mission that’s fully commercial set to fly in 2023. 

On opportunities for aerospace development in Houston

Altemus said autonomous systems are essential for future of space exploration. 

“What we should do here in Houston is we should build things," he said. "Build spacecraft, build drones, build autonomous vehicles and autonomous systems. And I think coupling our industrial nature as a city with the technology prowess of the city - putting those together is really where I think we should attract some businesses.”

Intuitive Machine's CEO also noted Houston's significant technical talent in the oil and gas, medical and aerospace sectors, as well as these industries' strong ties to academic institutions. 

"Houston isn’t Silicon Valley and shouldn’t try to be Silicon Valley. That community has its own identity."

On funding space exploration through public-private partnerships

Altemus noted the way government is working now to move into lunar exploration is through these partnerships that incorporate a mix of federal funding with private capital. He said the model NASA is embracing now is "very powerful and it means that the federal space dollar can go that much further with the compliment of private capital.”

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