As part of NASA’s ramp towards its Artemis Moon mission in 2024, some technologies are being sought for development by private entities. The last request is for the collection of a Moon sample, any sample will do and bids are open to any commercial entity in the world. NASA’s proposal was released on Thursday (September 10) and was followed by a blog post by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
“While we at NASA are working aggressively to achieve our short-term goal of landing the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024, our Artemis program also focuses on taking steps to establish a ‘ safe and sustainable lunar exploration architecture, “Bridenstine explained. “Today, we are taking a fundamental step forward by issuing a solicitation to commercial companies to provide proposals for the collection of space resources.”
The technology NASA wanted seems pretty simple: go to the moon and dig some rocks and / or surface regolith, send a photo proving that you’ve done so, then transfer ownership of said rocks / regolith to NASA. The company that’s digging doesn’t even have to bring the sample back to Earth – NASA will take care of that too. The only snag appears to be the timeline, which means the feat must be accomplished before Artemis’ launch year, 2024. Perhaps the space agency will plan to retire its lunar property using astronauts? Considering that the sample can also be collected from anywhere on the Moon rather than limited to where Earth’s arrivals will be, maybe not.
Prize amounts have not been specified, but some disbursement details have been provided. NASA will award 10% of the total purchase amount when the contract is awarded, 10% after the mission launch and the remaining 80% after the collection is completed.
“The requirements we have outlined are for a company to collect a small amount of lunar” dirt “or rocks from any location on the lunar surface, provide NASA images of the collection and collected material, along with data identifying the collection. an “on the spot” transfer of ownership of the lunar regolith or rocks to NASA, “Bridenstine explained. “After the transfer of ownership, the collected material becomes the exclusive property of NASA for our use … NASA’s goal is for the recovery and transfer of ownership to be completed before 2024.”
At first glance it’s a bit of an unusual challenge – just dig in and do it. However, NASA plans to bring back samples that its Mars Perseverance Rover 2020 (currently on its way to the red planet) will soon be excavated. The technology for the lunar and Mars samples will almost certainly overlap, hence the investment in a lunar sampling mission.
NASA also asked business partners to help payloads to the moon shuttle in a proposal published just days before this latest sample mission. Overall, it appears that things are going very well with humans leaving Earth’s orbit after a nearly 50-year stalemate.