Speaking this Thursday at the Space Sustainability Summit, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine announced that private companies will be contracted to collect and deliver lunar regolith (the material that covers the moon’s surface, formed primarily by rock pulverized by the impact of meteorites for hundreds of thousands of years) to the American space agency.
According to him, the purchase between 50g and half a kilo of lunar soil can be made on the satellite itself, and most of the payment for the collected material (80%) will be on delivery. The batches will not be paid just for the weight – it will take into consideration what type of material was collected and where. The values will vary between US $ 15 thousand and US $ 25 thousand, each lot (something between R $ 80 thousand and R $ 132 thousand).
NASA has not specified which places it wants samples from – which could be rocks, moon dust or even ice – nor does it require the contractor to carry out analyzes of what it has collected. However, it will be necessary to provide images of the lunar regolith and information about the location from which it was collected.
The initiative is being seen as the first step towards the use of resources in the very place where a base is installed (in English, in-situ resource utilization, or ISRU), indicating that NASA is a potential customer for companies that want to take a chance in the space mining business.
So one of the questions in the air during the announcement was about the application of the Outer Space Treaty, which says nothing about commercial activities either on the Moon or anywhere else outside the Earth.
According to the NASA administrator, one of the objectives of the space agency when opening the request for proposals was also to encourage the creation of norms that make possible the exploitation of extraterrestrial resources: “As on Earth, you do not own the ocean, but you own the tuna . ”