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. “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. Requirements are that companies will collect a small amount of Moon “dirt” or rocks from any location on the lunar surface (50 to 500 grams), provide imagery to the agency of the collection and the collected material, along with data that identifies the collection location. After ownership transfer, the collected material will become the sole property of NASA for its use. NASA is ready to pay between $15,000 and $25,000 for the resources.
The agency will also 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.” The real goal was revealed: “We are putting our policies into practice to fuel a new era of exploration and discovery that will benefit all of humanity,” Bridenstine said. The contract doesn’t actually involve getting to the Moon itself, but instead envisages companies designing a robot that NASA or major private sector players can then launch. The U.S. 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.