"Right now, we're trying to prove the concept that resources can be extracted, and they can be traded", Bridenstine noted, adding that trading should just not be limited among private companies or individuals, but also between countries.
All activities and expeditions taking place away from our home planet are now governed by the United Nations Outer Space Treaty of 1967, a document that prohibits extraterrestrial military bases or nuclear weapons and necessitates nations to go forth in peace and clean up after themselves, but there's no exact language revolving around outer space mining. The proposals are being put up for them now.
The organization needs to demonstrate the potential for "in-situ resource utilization", which translates into utilizing locally-sourced materials for all future space missions like NASA's upcoming Artemis Moon mission scheduled to launch sometime in 2024. In addition to the sample, NASA also requests that imagery be provided of the collection process, alongside data that identifies its exact collection location. Nasa hopes that the initiative could spur a new pipeline of lunar samples from commercial players.
The space administration is ready to purchase these samples in amounts between 50 to 500 grams for between $15,000 to $25,000.
NASA ultimately wants the exchange to happen before 2024.
Demand for lunar materials is very high among scientists with most of the material now in hand on Earth dating back to the Apollo program in the 1970s. With this announcement, NASA seeks companies to develop robots that can do the mining on the moon as the contract does not specify whether this will involve getting on the moon, a feat which is rarely achieved. This amount will be awarded at the time of the contract as well as during the launch.
This would permit companies to own the lunar resources they mine, a crucial element in allowing NASA contractors to convert the moon's water ice for rocket fuel or mine lunar minerals to construct landing pads.
Therefore, such a purchase will become one of the world's first transactions of space resources.
"The bottom line is, we're gonna buy some lunar soil for the objective of demonstrating that it can be done", Bridenstine said during the Secure World Foundation's Summit for Space Sustainability online presentation. However, this new proposal is aimed at creating a lunar marketplace.
However, this is definitely not for individuals who possess Moon rocks bought from an auction or even eBay.