NASA has announced plans to purchase lunar soil samples from private companies. At the same time, they incur the costs of transporting samples for further study on Earth.
NASA will purchase lunar soil samples from private contractors, agency administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a blog post. He noted that this is part of a project to return astronauts to the moon in 2024 and ensure a sustainable human research presence there. NASA is asking commercial companies to submit proposals for collecting small amounts of rock or soil “from anywhere” on the lunar surface, along with a photograph of the collection process and the resulting sample.
At the same time, companies are only asked to collect material – they should not be responsible for returning samples to Earth for their study. They will have to hand over the collected samples to the agency “on the spot”. Details of how this will happen, NASA promised to provide later.
NASA wants the material search and handover to occur before 2024. The offer is open not only to American private companies, while NASA has promised not only payment under the contract, but also a separate reward for the successful completion of the mission. The winning companies will receive 10% of the total contract value in advance, another 10% at the launch of their search engine, and the remaining 80% after the sample is collected and handed over.
TechCrunch journalists note that dozens of companies that offer the collection of extraterrestrial materials can apply for this contract. At the same time, the American space agency and the European Space Agency have already developed a plan according to which in 2031 it will be possible to deliver samples of the Martian rock to Earth for the first time.