NASA will pay a company $1 to collect moon rocks

A photograph of the moon taken by SpaceIL’s Beresheet spacecraft in orbit.


NASA will pay an amazingly low worth – a greenback – to have a company make a single small assortment of moon dust on the company’s behalf.

Colorado-based start-up Lunar Outpost bid $1 and received a NASA contract to full a mission below the company’s low-cost lunar useful resource assortment program introduced earlier this yr.

NASA needs to pay firms for particular person collections of lunar regolith, or Moon soil, between 50 grams and 500 grams. The company explicitly outlined it’s only paying firms to collect materials and say the place NASA can discover it on the moon’s floor – not to develop the spacecraft or return the regolith to Earth.

Lunar Outpost is likely one of the three firms that NASA chosen on Thursday as successful bidders. The different two winners had been California-based Masten Space Systems, which proposed a $15,000 mission in 2023, and Tokyo-based ispace, which proposed a pair of $5,000 missions in 2022 and 2023.

“The companies will collect the samples and then provide us with visual evidence and other data that they’ve been collected, and then ownership will transfer and we will then collect those samples,” NASA appearing affiliate administrator Mike Gold advised reporters in a press convention. “The objective [of these collection missions] is twofold: There is important policy and precedent that’s being set, both relative to the utilization of space resources, and the expansion of the public and private partnerships  beyond Earth orbit to the moon.”

The company requested for bids within the vary of $15,000 to $25,000 every, with a most restrict of $250,000. The awards for the three firms will be paid in a three step course of: 10% of the funds on the time of the award, 10% when the company launches their assortment spacecraft, and 80% when NASAA verifies the company collected the fabric.

“Is NASA going to cut a check for 10 cents [to Lunar Outpost]? The answer is yes,” NASA business spaceflight director Phil McAlister stated.

McAlister defined that Lunar Outpost was in a position to bid $1 as a result of the company was already planning to collect lunar materials, so segregating some regolith for NASA “was in fact trivial.”

While NASA stated Lunar Outpost will fly on a mission by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to the moon’s south pole in 2023, Blue Origin advised CNBC that was inaccurate. Lunar Outpost CEO Justin Cyrus clarified, telling CNBC that his company is in talks with Blue Origin and a number of other different firms which are working to fly to the moon.

“We are compatible with a variety of landers … [but] we have not made a final decision on any of these landers,” Cyrus stated. “Blue Origin makes a hell of a space vehicle, there’s no doubt about, but we are not contractually obligated to use any one specific lander.”

The company obtained 22 mission proposals from no less than 16 firms, as some bid a number of occasions. While NASA declined to specify which firms submitted proposals that weren’t chosen, McAlister defined that some went over the company’s price or choice standards.

NASA’s announcement follows President Donald Trump’s govt order earlier this yr that the U.S. would search additional worldwide assist for its coverage that enables personal organizations to collect and use assets in area. Trump’s govt order primarily reaffirms a resolution made by Congress in 2015, which supplies American people and firms “the right to engage in the commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space.”

Additionally, Thursday’s announcement comes as China conducts a lunar pattern assortment mission of its personal. Currently the Chinese Chang’e 5 lunar spacecraft is on its means again to Earth with samples from the moon, having launched on Nov. 24. It can be the primary return of lunar materials by any nation since 1976.

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