US Space Agency has signed contracts with four private companies that will collect moon rocks and mud over the next few years and then donate materials to NASA. The contracts are designed to begin work on the extraction, sale and use of extraterrestrial resources, which, as agency officials emphasize, are the key to the further development of humanity.
“We think it is very important to create a precedent where private sector actors can extract, use these resources, and NASA can acquire and use them to fuel not only NASA activities, but a whole new dynamic era of public and private development in exploration on the Moon and then eventually on Mars, ”Mike Gold, NASA's acting assistant administrator for international and inter-agency affairs, told reporters.
NASA will pay Lunar Outpost $ 1 to collect rocks from the moon after it has won the tender. "The mission is planned for 2023, but we are working with several different lander companies, which could lead to an earlier launch date," Lunar Outpost CEO Justin Cyrus told the BBC.
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In addition to Lunar Outpost, NASA's tender for the delivery of samples of extraterrestrial soil to Earth was won by ispace Japan, which will receive $ 5,000 for collecting samples in 2022 from the northeast of the satellite, ispace Europe - $ 5,000 for samples from the south side of the Moon and Masten Space Systems - 15 thousand dollars for samples of the southern side of the satellite.
American taxpayers' money will be paid in three stages: 10% after the selection of participants in the program, another 10% - when the company launches a spacecraft to the Moon and 80% - when NASA checks the collected samples.
Funding is so low because NASA pays solely for the material collected, without paying any invoice for any companies' development costs, agency officials said.
NASA notes that royalties are not the main motivation for the winning companies. The mission is expected to bring many scientific and business benefits, such as allowing private firms to begin practical extraction of resources from the lunar surface.
Companies must take all actions to fulfill contracts in full compliance with the Registration Convention, Article II and other provisions of the Outer Space Treaty, as well as in accordance with other relevant international obligations of NASA., the agency noted.