NASA encourages private companies to go to the moon and offers to buy the rocks they will collect.
NASA has launched an offer to pay private companies to exploit the Moon's resources, announcing that it will buy from them selenium rocks, moon dust and other materials from the planet's surface.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote in a blog post accompanying the announcement that the plans would not violate a 1967 treaty that states that bodies and celestial space are exempt from national property claims.
The initiative, which targets companies that plan to send robots to exploit lunar resources, is part of NASA's goal to establish what Bridenstine called “space behavior standards.” allow private operation on the moon in ways that could help support the astronauts' future missions.
NASA's Artemis program, developed under the presidency of Donald Trump, predicts a return of American astronauts to the moon by 2024. NASA sees this as a precursor to the first manned mission to Mars. “The main idea is that we want to buy soil every month just to prove that this can be done,” said the NASA director.
The agency wants to buy other resources in the future, such as ice or other materials that could be discovered. The long-term plan is for private companies to be able to extract and refine resources on the moon, which could then be used to power missiles or build rocket launch areas into space.
“It's a small step for space resources, but a huge leap for the policies that will be implemented and for the existence of a precedent,” said Mike Gold, NASA's director of international relations, according to the CBC.
“They pay the company to sell them a rock that the company owns. This is the product, “said Joanne Gabrynowicz, former editor-in-chief of the Journal of Space Law, in an interview. “A company has to decide for itself whether it is worth taking the financial and technological risk to do so in order to sell a rock on the moon.”