NASA is looking to pay companies to collect earth or rocks on the moon within the next four years, as a first step in the agency’s goal of accelerating lunar exploration.
“It’s time to establish regulatory certainty to mine and exchange space resources,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a tweet.
NASA is seeking proposals from companies on how and where the collection of the lunar regolith will take place. Under the terms of a contract, by 2024 a company will collect between 50 grams and 500 grams of lunar soil, provide NASA images of the material and data on where to find it, then transfer ownership of the materials to the space agency.
The agency said the collected material will then become its “exclusive property”
Competition for contracts is not limited to US companies, with offers expiring by October 2. NASA has not disclosed how much it expects the lunar harvesting contracts to be worth. But the agency has outlined a payout structure, with companies getting 10% of the funds at the time of the award, 10% when the company launches their collection spacecraft, and 80% once the material is transferred to the NASA.
“We are putting our policies into practice to fuel a new era of exploration and discovery that will benefit all of humanity,” Bridenstine wrote in a blog post.
The NASA announcement follows President Donald Trump’s executive order earlier this year that the United States would seek further international support for its policy that allows private organizations to gather and use resources in space. Trump’s executive order essentially reaffirms a decision made by Congress in 2015 that gives American individuals and corporations “the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery and use of resources in space.”
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