NASA will pay companies to collect moon rocks for next four years

NASA is looking to pay companies to collect dirt or rocks on the Moon within the next four years, the first step in the agency’s goal to accelerate lunar exploration.

“The time has come to establish regulatory certainty to extract and trade space resources,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein said in a tweet.

NASA is seeking proposals from companies as to how and where the collection of lunar regoliths will occur. Under the terms of a contract, by 2024 a company will collect between 50 grams and 500 grams of moon soil, where it will provide imagery to NASA of materials and data to find it, and then transfer ownership of the material to the space agency.

The agency said the material collected would then become its “sole property”, with plans by NASA to retrieve the material “at a later date”.

Competition for contracts is not limited to US companies, as bids due October 2. NASA did not disclose how much it expected Lunar Collection contracts to cost. But the agency outlined a payment structure in which companies receive 10% of the funds at the time of award, 10% when the company launches its collection spacecraft, and 80% once they transfer the material to NASA.

“We are practicing our policies to usher in a new era of discovery and discovery that will benefit all of humanity,” Bridenstein wrote in a blog post.

NASA’s announcement follows President Donald Trump’s executive order earlier this year that the US will seek further international support for its policy that allows private organizations to gather and use resources in space. Trump’s executive order essentially confirms a decision made by Congress in 2015, which empowers American individuals and corporations to “engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and resource use in outer space.”

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