The Donald Trump-led US administration wants to find out if the natural resources on the Moon can be mined for profit.
Documents containing internal communications between Nasa and Trump's space transition team, accessed by Motherboard, reveal the government's interest in the agency's plan to survey the Moon for useful raw materials. The Trump administration is particularly interested in gaining commercial benefits from some space projects and opening up the avenue to private entities.
In its response, Nasa assured the US government that it is all for profit-based space exploration and has already begun handing over low-Earth orbit explorations and tours to companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin.
"Nasa envisions a future in which low Earth orbit is largely the domain of commercial activity while we lead our international and commercial partners in the human exploration of deep space," said the agency.
Nasa is already working with Taiwan on a robotic rover for the Moon that it hopes to begin testing by 2017.
The rover will be used to detect potential resources like easy-to-mine water, hydrogen, and methane that Nasa says may be present on the Moon's southern polar region, which has not been explored due to its volatile nature. The agency called extraction and return of raw material samples from this region a "high scientific priority".
Trump had already asked Nasa if it can speed up its manned mission to Moon and aim for a 2018 target.