NASA is looking for private companies to source rocks and dirt from the Moon for them. In their first such endeavour, the US space agency has put in a request for quotations on its official website.
The request was published on Thursday announcing their requirement for "Purchase of Lunar Regolith and/or Rock Materials from Contractor." The details reveal that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA Shared Services Center will "be the procuring centre for this effort."
In their statement of work, the agency clarifies that the contractor must provide them 50g up to 500g of Lunar regolith and/or rock materials as collected from the surface of the moon. The contractor shall be fully responsible in all activities involving the collection of the lunar material.
As per the details, it appears payments will be made in phases. Starting with payment of 10 percent upon contractor completing presentation of a Concept Review with NASA, the next 10 percent will be given upon launch from Earth of the contractor's system for this mission. The remaining 80 percent will be paid upon successful completion of all the activities mentioned in the document.
In the blog accompanying the announcement, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote that they are taking a critical step towards involving commercial companies in the collection of space resources. He assured that the proposals will be in full compliance with the Registration Convention, Article II, and other provisions of the Outer Space Treaty, and all of NASA's 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 wrote.
As per the requirements, the private company shall collect a "small amount of Moon 'dirt' or rocks from any location" on the moon. Further, they must provide imagery of the collection of the material identifying its location and conduct an "'in-place' transfer of ownership of the lunar regolith or rocks to NASA." These steps will ensure that the collected material is NASA's sole property.
With their new endeavour, the space agency aims at completing the collection mission by 2024, the year when the Artemis program is scheduled to launch with the goal of landing the first woman and next man on the Moon.
The solicitation invites companies from across the globe and promises one or more awards along with the payment. The retrieval will be made by the agency at the later date.
"The scientific discoveries gained through robust, sustainable, and safe lunar exploration will benefit all of humanity. By continuing to publicly release our data, NASA will ensure the whole world joins us and benefits from the Artemis journey," the blog concludes.