NASA announced the first contracts with private space companies that are ready to collect soil on the Moon and get it to the agency's ownership. Colorado-based Lunar Outpost has already agreed to do this for just one dollar.
Four firms received contracts. The total cost of their services was $25,001. Companies will need to land their vehicles on the Moon, retrieve regolith or rocks weighing between 50 and 500 grams, take photos of the material, and send them to Earth. Then the soil will become the property of NASA, but it may remain on the Moon.
"The companies will collect the samples and then provide us with visual evidence and other data that they've been collected," a NASA spokesman said in a statement.
When the agency chose the firms, it paid attention mainly to whether their equipment would cope with the tasks. Then NASA ranked the potential projects at the requested price.
This scheme resulted in a symbolic one-dollar contract with Lunar Outpost. The rest of the firms will receive 5,000 and 15,000 dollars for the same work. Experts have already explained that it is not the money that is more important here, but the precedent itself, the creation of legal norms for sale and use of off-Earth resources, as well as the opportunity for the companies to practice extracting resources from the Moon.
The other winning firms were California-based Masten Space Systems and Tokyo-based ispace, along with its European subsidiary.
NASA will use the extracted soil in its Artemis program, which aims to send the next man and a woman to the Moon by 2024.