NASA has always been at the forefront of space exploration and innovation, but even an organisation as large as NASA can’t perform every single space mission while also conducting important scientific research. For this reason, NASA has announced a new contract opportunity that will see it purchasing regolith or ‘Moon dust’ and rocks from companies that specialise in space exploration.
The announcement was made by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenestine, he explained that NASA will make use of private companies under the Artemis lunar program to venture to the moon to collect valuable lunar rocks and moon dust which NASA will use for research purposes. By making use of a third party company, it will help NASA save money while also providing an opportunity for NASA to gain access to new innovations developed by these companies.
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
The contract offer has been published online and will remain active until 9 October 2020, which is the cut-off date for companies to have their full proposals submitted. NASA hopes that both the materials gathered by these companies can be retrieved and the transfer of ownership can happen by 2024 by the latest, which is also the deadline for its manned return mission to the moon.
According to the solicitation posted by Bridenstine, NASA wants is looking for between 50 grams and 500 grams of lunar material, along with images and data relating to the location of where the materials were gathered along with a break down of how they collected the material. A small payment will be provided by NASA before the mission, with the rest of the payment being made once the materials have been delivered.
“We know a supportive policy regarding the recovery and use of space resources is important to the creation of a stable and predictable investment environment for commercial space innovators and entrepreneurs,” explained Bridenstine in a statement.