Washington: NASA is looking for private companies from around the world that can grab lunar dirt and rocks, setting off the process of creating a new marketplace for space resources.
Outlining its goal, the US space agency has said that it aims to complete the retrieval and transfer of ownership of the resources before 2024. NASA has set the goal of landing the first American woman and next man on the Moon by 2024.
And it is not just one company that the US space agency is looking to purchase lunar resources from. "The solicitation creates a full and open competition, not limited to US companies, and the agency may make one or more awards," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote in a blog post on Thursday.
As per the requirements outlined by NASA, a company will collect a small amount of Moon "dirt" or rocks from any location on the lunar surface, provide imagery to the agency of the collection and the collected material, along with data that identifies the collection location.
They will then have to conduct an "in-place" transfer of ownership of the lunar regolith or rocks to NASA. After ownership transfer, the collected material will become the sole property of NASA for its use.
"NASA's payment is exclusively for the lunar regolith, with any awardee receiving 10 percent at award, 10 per cent upon launch, and the remaining 80 per cent upon successful completion," Bridenstine said, adding that the agency will determine retrieval methods for the transferred lunar regolith at a later date.
According to a report in The Verge, NASA is ready to pay between $15,000 and $25,000 for the resources. The amount appears to be quite meagre considering the cost required to send a spacecraft to the Moon, but the idea here is to start the process of creating a lunar marketplace, said the report.
Industry group Commercial Spaceflight Federation has welcomed NASA's decision. "We applaud @NASA's announcement to buy extracted lunar resources from commercial as another step towards a sustainable return to the Moon," the federation said in a tweet on Thursday.
The NASA Administrator said that when considering such proposals to buy lunar resources from private companies, the agency will require that "all actions be taken in a transparent fashion, in full compliance with the Registration Convention, Article II and other provisions of the Outer Space Treaty, and all of our other international obligations." "We are putting our policies into practice to fuel a new era of exploration and discovery that will benefit all of humanity," Bridenstine said.