NASA has recently announced it plans to pay private companies to collect samples from the Moon. The American space agency has already booked robotic trips to the lunar surface on commercial vehicles, and also plans to proceed this way with crewed missions.
“The bottom line is, we’re gonna buy some lunar soil for the purpose of demonstrating that it can be done,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said on September 10th during an online presentation at the Secure World Foundation’s Summit for Space Sustainability.
The agency issued a request for proposals (RFP) for this purpose, Bridenstine said in a blog post. NASA wants private companies, either from the United States or abroad, to collect 1.8 ounces to 18 ounces (50 to 500 gr) of lunar samples by 2024 and officially give ownership of the material to the space agency on the Moon.
NEWS: @NASA is buying lunar soil from a commercial provider! It’s time to establish the regulatory certainty to extract and trade space resources. More: https://t.co/B1F5bS6pEy pic.twitter.com/oWuGHnB8ev
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) September 10, 2020
NASA will allegedly pay $15,000 to $25,000 for each of these samples, with 80 percent of the money given after sample collection. Companies will get 10 percent when they sign a contract and 10 percent after launching their probe, according to NASA administrator Bridenstine.
The space agency will ultimately bring the material down to Earth. The main aim of the new RFP, which you can find here, is to allegedly stimulate and normalize the collection and also sale of lunar resources, the agency head said.
“Right now, we’re trying to prove the concept that resources can be extracted, and they can be traded,” Bridenstine explained in the statement. “And not just traded among companies or private individuals, but also among countries and across borders — private individuals in other countries.”
NASA wants to continue encouraging such programs with ‘other iterations’ of the RFP in the future, Bridenstine said. All these activities will be led with respect to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, the administrator argued, which is the baseline of international space law.