NASA awarded contracts to four companies on Thursday to collect samples from the moon for $ 1 to $ 15,000, which are extremely low prices intended to set a precedent for the future exploitation of space resources by the private sector.
“I think it’s surprising that we could purchase lunar regoliths from four companies for a total of $ 25,001,” said Phil McAllister, director of NASA’s commercial space flight division.
Contracts with Lunar Outpost of Golden, Colorado for one dollar; ispace Japan of Tokyo for $ 5,000; ispace Europe of Luxembourg for $ 5,000; And Masten Space Systems in Mojave, California for $ 15,000.
The companies plan to carry out the group during already scheduled unmanned missions to the moon in 2022 and 2023.
Companies are required to collect a small amount of lunar soil known as regolith from the moon and provide NASA images of the collection and materials collected.
The ownership of the lunar soil will then be transferred to NASA and become “NASA’s only property to use the agency under the Artemis program.”
As part of the Artemis program, NASA plans to land a man and woman on the moon by 2024 and lay the groundwork for sustainable exploration and a final mission to Mars.
“The precedent is a very important part of what we do today,” said Mike Gould, Acting NASA Administrator for International and Interagency Relations.
“We think it is very important to create a precedent that private sector entities can extract, and they can take these resources, but NASA can buy and use them to supply not only NASA activities, but a completely new dynamic era of public and private development and exploration,” said Gold.
“We must learn how to generate water, air and even fuel,” he said. “Living on Earth will enable ambitious exploration activities that will lead to science horror and unprecedented discoveries.”
Any lessons learned on the moon will be crucial to a final mission to Mars.
“The human mission to Mars will be more difficult and challenging than our operations on the moon, which is why it is so important to learn from our experiences on the moon and apply these lessons to Mars,” said Gold.
“We want to clearly prove that you can extract, you can benefit from the resources, and that we will undertake these activities in full compliance with the Outer Space Treaty,” he said. “This is an important precedent. It is important for America to lead, not only in technology, but in politics.”
The United States is seeking to establish a precedent because there is currently no international consensus on property rights in space and China and Russia have not reached an understanding with the United States on this topic.
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 is vague but considers outer space “not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by use or occupation, or by any other means.”
© 2020 Agence France-Presse