As part of NASA’s ramp to its Artemis Moon mission in 2024, several technologies are being sought for development by private entities. The last request is to collect a sample from the Moon, each sample will do so, and the bidding is open to any store in the world. NASA’s proposal came out on Thursday (September 10) and was followed by a blog post by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein.
As we at NASA work hard to achieve our short-term goal of landing the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024, our Artemis program is also focused on taking steps that will create a safe and sustainable architecture for exploration of the moon, ”Bridenstein explained. “Today, we are taking a critical step forward by asking commercial companies to provide proposals for the collection of space resources.”
The technology wanted by NASA seems pretty clear: Get to the moon and dig up a few rocks and / or surface regolith, send a photo proving you did it, and then transfer ownership of the said rocks / regolith to NASA. The digging company doesn’t even have to return the sample to Earth – NASA will take care of that too. It seems that the only problem is the schedule, which means that the feat must be performed before the launch of Artemis in 2024. Maybe the space agency will plan to take its lunar property with the help of astronauts? Given that the sample can be collected from anywhere on the moon, not limited to where the arrivals on Earth will be, but maybe not.
Prize amounts were not specified, but some payment details were provided. NASA will award 10% of the total purchase amount when awarding the contract, 10% after the start of the mission and the remaining 80% after the completion of the collection.
The requirements we have stated are that a company will collect a small amount of lunar “dirt” or rocks from any place on the lunar surface, provide NASA with images of the collection and the collected material, along with data that identifies the collection location and perform transfer of ownership of lunar regolith or rocks to NASA, ”Brydenstein explained. “After the transfer of ownership, the collected material becomes the sole property of NASA for our use … NASA’s goal is to complete the acquisition and transfer of ownership before 2024.”
At first glance, it’s a bit of an unusual challenge – just dig and be prepared. However, NASA plans to return samples that its Mars Perseverance Rover in 2020 (currently on its way to the red planet) will soon dig. The technology for samples from the Moon and samples from Mars will almost certainly overlap, hence the investment in a lunar test mission.
NASA has also asked trading partners to help fly to the moon in a proposal published a few days before this last test mission. Overall, it seems that things can do very well for people leaving Earth’s orbit after nearly 50 years of impasse.