A private Houston-based company is set this week to lead a mission to the moon which, if successful, will mark America's first lunar landing since the end of the Apollo era five decades ago.

Reputation will be on the line when Intuitive Machines' Nova-C spaceship will launch atop a SpaceX rocket on Wednesday, following recent completed touchdowns by China, India and Japan.

So why entrust such tasks to the commercial sector, especially after an attempt by another company with similar goals, Astrobotic, failed just last month?