NASA will pay $1 to a company to collect rocks from the moon on behalf of the US space agency after the amount was accepted as a winning bid. Colorado-based Lunar Outpost has been awarded a contract to collect lunar rocks following the arrival of a lander to the moon’s south pole in 2023. The company said in a statement that the contract is symbolic of a new incentive that will “exponentially increase the potential of future missions.”
The three other companies that won the bid to collect space resources and transfer ownership to NASA include Masten Space Systems of Mojave, ispace Europe of Luxembourg, and ispace Japan of Tokyo. The new contracts will cost $25,001 to the space agency. NASA said that the companies will receive 10% of their total proposed price upon award, 10% upon launch, and the remaining 80% upon successful completion.
“The objective is twofold: There is important policy and precedent that’s being set, both relative to the utilisation of space resources, and the expansion of the public and private partnerships beyond Earth orbit to the moon,” NASA acting associate administrator Mike Gold told a news conference on Thursday.
The firms will collect a small amount of lunar regolith, between 50g and 500g in weight, and provide imagery of the collection to NASA. It will then transfer the collected material, along with the data that identifies the collection location. After an “in-place” transfer of ownership, the collected material will become the sole property of NASA for its use under the Artemis program, said the agency.
“Space resources will play a key role in NASA’s Artemis program and future space exploration. The ability to extract and use extraterrestrial resources will ensure Artemis operations can be conducted safely and sustainably in support of establishing human lunar exploration,” the space agency said in a statement.
NASA’s Artemis program is the next step towards human space exploration and a part of the broader Moon to Mars exploration approach. Under the program, the agency is working to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon. In October, eight countries signed Artemis Accords to establish a set of principles to guide space exploration cooperation.