CSIRO supports Intuitive Machines’ first Moon mission

February 29th, 2024


CSIRO is supporting Intuitive Machines’ first lunar mission, IM-1, which successfully landed and sent a confirmed signal from the surface of the Moon on Friday 23 February.

  • IM-1 launched on Thursday 15 February on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
  • Murriyang, CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope, is one of the ground stations tracking and receiving data from IM-1. This uncrewed mission is delivering NASA experiments and commercial payloads to the lunar south polar region.
  • The data collected from the experiments and technology demonstrations onboard IM-1 will help inform future uncrewed and crewed missions to the Moon.
  • CSIRO’s team operating Canberra’s Deep Space Communication Complex and their sister stations in Madrid and Goldstone are also providing communication support for the mission including one of the NASA payloads – NASA’s Lunar Node 1 which is demonstrating a navigation and positioning system for future Moon and Mars missions.
  • Intuitive Machines is one of several commercial companies contracted by NASA to lead uncrewed lunar missions under the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative in support of their Artemis program.
  • Follow mission updates on Intuitive Machines’ website and social media channels.

Media assets available via Dropbox and Intuitive Machines’ gallery.

All quotes below are available for use by media.

Why is CSIRO supporting Intuitive Machines’ first lunar mission IM-1?

Dr John Reynolds, CSIRO Director of ATNF Operations says:

“CSIRO was there for the first Moon landing, and we’re excited to be supporting this new wave of missions preparing for the Artemis program – NASA’s ambition to return to the Moon. Australia’s growing space industry is underpinned by our world-class national infrastructure and a long history enabling space exploration. This is another example of Australian capability supporting the international space community.”

Mr John Sarkissian, CSIRO astronomer says:

“Murriyang, CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope, will be one of several ground stations tracking Intuitive Machines’ first lunar mission IM-1 delivering experiments from NASA and other partners to the Moon. The data collected by IM-1 from the lunar surface will help pave the way for future robotic and crewed missions.”

Intuitive Machines’ spokesperson says:

“Murriyang, CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope, adds significant capability to Intuitive Machines’ Lunar Data Network. The network utilises multiple large ground station antennas, like Parkes, strategically located around the Earth to provide continuous communications with our spacecraft.”

What is IM-1 aiming to do? How is it different from other recent Moon missions?

Dr John Reynolds, CSIRO Director of ATNF Operations says:

“Intuitive Machines is one of the commercial space companies helping NASA achieve their Artemis program to send people back to the Moon. This first mission that we’re tracking with Murriyang, CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope, is taking NASA technology to the lunar surface for testing, much like each of the Apollo missions tested various technology and manoeuvres required before landing a human on the Moon. IM-1’s target landing site is near one of the candidate sites for Artemis III, NASA’s mission to put boots back on the Moon, including the first woman and person of colour.”

Steve Altemus, Intuitive Machines CEO says:

“This mission’s primary objective is delivering both commercial payloads and NASA science and technology payloads that will pave the way for a sustainable human presence on and around the Moon. The significance of the IM-1 mission extends beyond the mere act of landing on the lunar surface. This mission is part of a broader strategy to foster a sustainable presence on the Moon, facilitating scientific discovery, resource utilization, and the development of lunar infrastructure. The mission aims to be the first U.S. vehicle to softly land on the lunar surface since Apollo 17 in 1972.”

Last year India landed near the Moon’s south pole, now IM-1 and others are going there too, why?

Dr John Reynolds, CSIRO Director of ATNF Operations says:

“The mission aims to land in the Moon’s south pole region, which is heavily cratered. These craters mean it’s more challenging to land safely, but they also contain solutions for sustained human presence on the Moon as there’s water ice in the permanent shadows. The south polar region is the ultimate target for establishing a base for exploring the Moon and our Solar System. IM-1 is delivering NASA and commercial experiments to test technology and better understand this important region on the lunar surface.”

Dr Jane Kaczmarek, CSIRO astrophysicist says:

“There have been a lot of technological advances since the last time humans went to the Moon! The latest missions are looking to better understand the Moon’s environment and test technology that could be used to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon. The Moon’s south pole region looks like one of the best places to establish a base due the existence of water ice. Murriyang, the CSIRO Parkes radio telescope is helping bring the data from IM-1’s payloads back to Earth.”

What does a successful IM-1 mission mean to you?

Dr Jane Kaczmarek, CSIRO astrophysicist says:

“Space exploration is so incredibly difficult and I am proud that Murriyang is once again playing a role. Consider the technological advances of the past 50 years, Murriyang is now more than 10,000 times more sensitive than it was when we helped track the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 and humans have been able to expand our computing capabilities more than a billion times since then! It is exciting to think of all the new things we will learn about our place in the Universe with these increased capabilities.”

Mr Glen Nagle, CSIRO Outreach Manager says:

“In the same way that commercial aviation changed the world over 100 years ago, a successful landing on the Moon by a private company, will open a new era in space exploration.”