Cape Canaveral is seeing final preparations put in place ahead of the planned launch Monday of a lander destined for the moon, a first in more than half a century since the Apollo project made history.
Two private companies are behind the hustle to get the U.S. back in the deep space game, all part of a NASA-supported effort to kick-start commercial moon deliveries, as the space agency focuses on getting astronauts back there, AP reports.
“They’re scouts going to the moon ahead of us,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
Pittsburgh’s Astrobotic Technology is up first with its planned liftoff of a lander Monday aboard a brand new rocket, United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan.
Houston’s Intuitive Machines aims to launch a lander in mid-February, hopping a flight with SpaceX.
The United States has not attempted a moon landing since Apollo 17’s Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, the last of 12 moonwalkers, explored the gray, dusty surface in December 1972.
“It’s going to be a wild, wild ride,” promised Astrobotic’s chief executive John Thornton.
His counterpart at Intuitive Machines, Steve Altemus, said the space race is “more about the geopolitics, where China is going, where the rest of the world’s going.”
That said, “We sure would like to be first.”