Ethiopia: Loan from United Nations Fund Allows Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to Scale Up Fertilizers for Farmers in TigrayRead more How Choosing the Right Printer Helps Small Businesses and Content Creators to Save Time, Maximise Productivity and Achieve GrowthRead more The United States Contributes USD $223 Million to Help World Food Programme (WFP) Save Lives and Stave Off Severe Hunger in South SudanRead more Eritrea: World Breastfeeding WeekRead more Eritrean community festival in Scandinavian countriesRead more IOM: Uptick in Migrants Heading Home as World Rebounds from COVID-19Read more Network International & Infobip to offer WhatsApp for Business Banking Services to Financial Institution Clients across AfricaRead more Ambassador Jacobson Visits Gondar in the Amhara Region to Show Continued U.S. Support for the Humanitarian and Development Needs of EthiopiansRead more Voluntary Repatriation of Refugees from Angola to DR Congo ResumesRead more Senegal and Mauritania Are Rich in Resources, Poor in Infrastructure, Now Is the Time to Change That Read more

Gather Moon rocks for us, NASA urges private companies

Print Friendly and PDF

Sep 11, 2020 - 09:26 AM

WASHINGTON — NASA on Thursday announced it was in the market for Moon rocks, and wants to pay companies to scoop out the dirt, take a photo, and then have it ready for collection by a future mission.

The contract doesn’t actually involve getting to the Moon itself — a feat only achieved by the national space agencies of three countries — but instead envisages companies designing a robot that NASA or major private sector players can then launch.

“NASA is buying lunar soil from a commercial provider! It’s time to establish the regulatory certainty to extract and trade space resources,” tweeted administrator Jim Bridenstine.

The US wants to become a leader in the exploitation of resources found in the soil or subsoil of asteroids and the Moon, a policy outlined in an executive order by President Donald Trump last year, despite an absence of international or legal consensus on the best way to manage extraterrestrial mining.

The major space treaties are vague on the question.

For the current tender, it has asked companies from around the world to present proposals to collect 50 to 500 grams of Moon rock, or regolith, from anywhere on the surface, provide imagery to prove it, then transfer sole ownership to NASA.

Companies would set their own bids, and be paid 20 percent up front with the remainder upon successful completion of their mission.

NASA anticipates that the contracts will be worth some tens of thousands of dollars, according to the tender documents.

In a blog post, Bridenstine wrote that NASA would determine collection methods at a later date,  but it wasn’t clear whether that meant the rocks would be collected by future astronauts and stay on the Moon or be brought back to Earth.

The mission represents a proof of concept as NASA looks to return humans to the lunar surface by 2024 and then set its sights on Mars, harnessing the resources of the Moon and using it as a waypoint.

NASA hopes to excavate lunar ice from the polar regions to supply both drinking water and to split the molecules apart to make rocket fuel for the onward journey.

The space agency is increasingly relying on a public-private model, where it no longer assumes the entire cost of developing and operating missions, but instead contracts out services to private space companies.

SpaceX, for instance, carries cargo for NASA to the International Space Station and recently completed a successful test flight to take astronauts too.

  • bio
  • twitter
  • facebook
  • latest posts

ZONNTECH.COM uses both Facebook and Disqus comment systems to make it easier for you to contribute. We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts. All comments should be relevant to the topic. By posting, you agree to our Privacy Policy. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, name-calling, foul language or other inappropriate behavior. Please keep your comments relevant and respectful. By leaving the ‘Post to Facebook’ box selected – when using Facebook comment system – your comment will be published to your Facebook profile in addition to the space below. If you encounter a comment that is abusive, click the “X” in the upper right corner of the Facebook comment box to report spam or abuse. You can also email us.