US space agency NASA on Thursday awarded contracts to four companies to collect lunar samples for $ 1 to $ 15,000, rock-bottom values to set an example for future exploitation of space resources by the private sector .
“I think it’s wonderful that we can buy lunar regoliths from four companies for a total of $ 25,001,” said Phil McAlester, director of NASA’s Commercial Spaceflight Division.
The contracts are with Chandra Outpost of Golden, Colorado for $ 1; Ispace Japan of Tokyo for $ 5,000; Ispace Europe of Luxembourg for $ 5000; And Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California, for $ 15,000.
The companies have already planned to collect in 2022 and 2023 during unmanned missions to the moon.
The firms aim to collect a small amount of lunar soil known as the regolith from the moon and provide imagery to NASA of the collection and collected material.
Ownership of the lunar soil would then be transferred to NASA and it would “become NASA’s sole asset for agency use under the Artemis program.”
Under the Artemis program, NASA plans to land a man and a woman on the moon by 2024 and undertake ground work for sustainable exploration and a final mission to Mars.
“The precedent is a very important part of what we are doing today,” said Mike Gold, NASA’s administrator for international and interprofessional relations.
“We think it is very important to set a precedent for private sector units, but NASA can buy these activities and use them to promote NASA activities, but also public and private development and exploration. A new dynamic era The Moon, ”Gold said.
“We must learn to make our own water, air and even fuel,” he said. “Staying away from the land will enable ambitious exploration activities that will result in science and inspire unprecedented discoveries.”
Any lessons learned on the Moon will be important for the final mission to Mars.
“Manned missions to Mars will be more demanding and challenging than our lunar operations, which is why it is so important to learn from our experiences on the Moon and apply those lessons to Mars,” Gould said.
“We want to clearly demonstrate that you can extract, you can use resources, and we will conduct those activities in full compliance with the Outer Space Treaty.” “This is the example that matters. It is important for America to lead, not only in technology, but in policy.”
The United States is seeking to set an example because there is currently no international consensus on property rights in space and China and Russia have not reached an understanding with the United States on the subject.
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 is vague but does not make the outer space “subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, through use or possession, or by any other means”.
© 2020 AFP