For lunar cargo delivery, NASA accepts risk in return for low prices

Standing on a runway in southeast Houston, Tim Crain had to raise his voice to be heard over the roar of a supersonic jet taking off in the distance.

The present and future have come together at the Houston Spaceport. On an almost daily basis, current NASA astronauts take T-38s out for flights to hone their flying skills or to jet across the country for mission training. A few hundred meters away from the main runway, Intuitive Machines is testing rocket engines to support lunar landings.

Crain is the chief technology officer for Houston-based Intuitive Machines, which is building landers to take cargo to the lunar surface. Intuitive Machines has a mixture of NASA and commercial contracts and has emerged as one of a new generation of mostly small companies seeking to extend the sphere of economic activity to the lunar surface.

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