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NASA plans to purchase lunar samples collected by a commercial lander

NASA seeks to buy moon samples collected by lunar-lander cooperations for a token sum to assess the conditions precedent for formulating space resource regulations and policies on the moon. On September 10, NASA issued a solicitation that requested space exploration corporations to make quotations for selling 50 to 500 grams of moon rocks and lunar regolith. After the company obtains the lunar samples and shows proof of conducting the extraction, NASA plans to take custody of the pieces and process payment. The space exploration company does not perform a return mission to Earth, meaning that NASA takes control of future missions for obtaining the lunar samples. After successful extraction, the pieces’ primary purpose is to facilitate the formulation of moon resource transfer regulations instead of scientific experiments and research.

Jim Bridenstine, the director of NASA, said that agency plans to purchase soil from the moon to illustrate that the mission is possible. Jim made the statement on September 10 during the Secure World Foundation’s Summit intended to foster Space Sustainability. Although NASA’s request for company quotations never specified the amount allocated for the purchase, Jim stated the agency plans to spend $15,000 to $25,000 for the samples.

Mike Gold, acting associate director of International and Inter-agency Relations, announced an estimated $50,000 to fund it. However, the allocation is insignificant compared to the costs involved in conducting the launch mission and extraction of lunar material.

Bridenstine stated that NASA plans to set ground rules for launch missions to the moon and lunar resource extractions, adhering to the Outer Space Treaty. The program seeks to develop both state laws and policies within the space industry. The Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 gave many cooperations the privilege to own samples extracted from the moon and other space bodies. In April, an executive directive stated the need for space agencies and companies to seek international support in maintaining the position.

In May, NASA announced the Artemis Accords that incorporated the principles and capabilities for extraction and utilization of lunar resources. The Outer Space Treaty prohibits nations from setting territorial claims on any space body such as the moon. The capacity to utilize lunar resources is crucial for the long-term sustainability of the Artemis Moon exploration program. 

In summary, the space missions and scientific research studies conducted on lunar materials draw humankind closer to achieving humanity’s habitation on the moon. Many space agencies and corporations continue to initiate lunar exploration programs that plan to establish man’s stay on the moon.