NASA has announced a new contract opportunity that will involve it purchasing Moon dust (called regolith) and rocks from a private space company. The intention was announced by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a post this week, with the official stating that utilizing private companies under its Artemis lunar program will help it save money and access new innovations developed by these companies. The new contract is part of this effort.
The new solicitation has been published online; it will be live until October 9, at which point interested companies will need to have their proposals submitted. According to Bridenstine, NASA wants a commercial company to gather space resources for it — meaning the regolith and rocks. A small quantity of both materials will be collected and sold to NASA.
NASA hopes for the material retrieval and transfer of ownership to happen before 2024, the deadline for its manned return to the Moon. The contract isn’t limited to US-based companies and NASA says it may award contracts to more than one commercial firm. The majority of the funds offered under the contract will be given to the company when it successfully delivers the product.
According to the solicitation details NASA published in a PDF on the contract offer, it wants between 50 grams and 500 grams of the Moon material, as well as pictures and other details pertaining to the collection process and location. NASA also notes that it will take steps to verify that the materials offered were, in fact, harvested from the Moon.
In his statement, NASA Administrator Bridenstine said, “We know a supportive policy regarding the recovery and use of space resources is important to the creation of a stable and predictable investment environment for commercial space innovators and entrepreneurs.” The agency will ensure its commercial partner follows all applicable regulations and other restrictions while working for the agency.