NASA is looking to mine the Moon and exploit its resources, calls for proposals from private companies
NASA has its eyes set on the Moon's resources. The space agency is seeking help from companies to extract materials from the lunar body and bring them back home. The development comes after President Donald Trump signed an executive order this year, greenlighting moon mining efforts.
"The President’s Executive Order on Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources clarifies Congress’ intent clarifies that it is the policy of the United States to encourage international support for the public and private recovery and use of resources in outer space, consistent with applicable law," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, said in a blog post.
NEWS: @NASA is buying lunar soil from a commercial provider! It’s time to establish the regulatory certainty to extract and trade space resources. More: https://t.co/B1F5bS6pEy pic.twitter.com/oWuGHnB8ev— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) September 10, 2020
"The requirements we’ve outlined are that a company will collect a small amount of Moon “dirt” or rocks from any location on the lunar surface, provide imagery to NASA of the collection and the collected material, along with data that identifies the collection location, and conduct an “in-place” transfer of ownership of the lunar regolith or rocks to NASA," Bridenstine explained. The space agency said it was ready to pay between $15,000 to $25,000 for 50 to 500 grams for lunar samples, following which the material would become the sole property of NASA.
NASA wants this to happen before the 2024 Artemis Mission, which will send the first woman and the next man to the moon. “We will use what we learn on and around the moon to take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars,” Bridenstine wrote.
Why does NASA want to mine the Moon?
According to NASA, the Moon is a treasure trove of rare metals. Copper, aluminum, iron, and other rare earth elements mined from the lunar body can help build smartphones, computers, and medical equipment. Though 90% of these resources are produced in China, the country will eventually run out of supplies, the agency said. Besides, water ice locked in the Moon's craters will help future missions. It will not only quench the thirst of explorers, but it will help make fuel.
The moon has a mass of quadrillion tons. To deplete 1% of the lunar body's mass, it would take 220 million years. This, according to NASA, would not interfere with the moon's gravitational influence on Earth. However, concerns about environmental damage and ethical consequences remain.
In April 2020, Trump signed an executive order supporting the exploitation of Moon's water ice and other resources. The policy, according to the US, is not at odds with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. The treaty prohibits any country from claiming sovereign rights over outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies. Bridenstine said that mining will benefit humankind.
"As America prepares to return humans to the moon and journey on to Mars, this executive order establishes US policy toward the recovery and use of space resources, such as water and certain minerals, in order to encourage the commercial development of space," Scott Pace, deputy assistant to the president and executive secretary of the U.S. National Space Council, said in an earlier statement.