Moon dust for $1 — that’s all NASA is paying one of the companies selected to collect lunar samples
- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has awarded contracts to four companies to collect dust from the Moon’s surface, and it’s paying one of them just $1 for the whole mission.
- As per the payment plan, Lunar Outpost of Golden received 10 cents on getting the contract and will get another 10 cents after the mission launch. The full payment will only come in after it delivers the samples to NASA.
- In comparison, the largest contract awarded to Masten Space Systems is worth $15,000.
|Company||Contract value||Expected launch||Location of collection|
|Masten Space Systems, Mojave||$15,000||2023||Lunar South Pole|
|ispace Europe, Luxembourg||$5,000||2023||Lacus Somniorum (northeastern side of the Moon)|
|ispace Japan, Tokyo||$5,000||2022||Lunar South Pole|
|Lunar Outpost of Golden, Colorado||$1||2023||Lunar South Pole|
"We think it's very important to establish the precedent that the private sector entities can extract, can take these resources but NASA can purchase and utilise them to fuel not only NASA's activities, but a whole new dynamic era of public and private development and exploration on the Moon," said NASA’s acting associate administrator for international and interagency relations, Mike Gold.
AdvertisementNASA’s payment system for lunar samples
NASA will not make the entire payout in a lump sum. Only 10% of the proposed award will be given once the contract is awarded, and another 10% after the launch of the respective missions.
The remaining 80% will only be paid once the mission is completed in its entirety and the Moon dust has been handed over to NASA.
Comparison of payments between the largest and smallest contracts to collect samples from the Moon:
|Stage||Payment to Lunar Outpost of Golden||Payment to Masten Space Systems|
|On getting the contract||10 cents||$1,500|
|On mission launch||10 cents||$1,500|
|On completing the mission||80 cents||$12,000|
“NASA’s payment is exclusively for the lunar regolith. The agency will determine retrieval methods for the transferred lunar regolith at a later date,” the agency said in a statement.
On a mission to collect Moon dust
These companies will send unmanned rockets to the Moon to collect a small amount of lunar regolith — or dust from the surface of the Moon. They will have to provide NASA with imagery of the collection and hand over the collection material.
Aside from ispace Europe, the other three companies will be collecting lunar samples from the Moon’s South Pole. This is the same area where the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) attempted to explore with their lander Vikram during the Chandrayaan-2 mission but was unsuccessful.
According to Gold, these samples will play a key role in NASA’s upcoming Artemis mission, which will carry humans to the Moon.
"We must learn to generate our own water, air and even fuel. Living off the land will enable ambitious exploration activities that will result in awe inspiring science and unprecedented discoveries," he said.
AdvertisementAll of the learnings will also go a long way in gaining a better understanding on how NASA could carry out its next mission — to send humans to Mars.
"Human mission to Mars will be even more demanding and challenging than our lunar operations, which is why it's so critical to learn from our experiences on the Moon and apply those lessons to Mars," Gold remarked.
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