NASA to buy moon dirt mined by private firms
NASA has launched an effort to pay companies to mine resources on the moon, announcing it would buy from them rocks, dirt and other lunar materials as the U.S. space agency seeks to spur private extraction of coveted off-world resources for its use.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote in a blog post accompanying the announcement that the plans would not violate a 1967 treaty that holds that celestial bodies and space are exempt from national claims of ownership.
The initiative, targeting companies that plan to send robots to mine lunar resources, is part of NASA's goal of setting what Bridenstine called "norms of behavior" in space and allowing private mining on the moon in ways that could help sustain future astronaut missions.
NASA said it views the mined resources as the property of the company, and the materials would become "the sole property of NASA" after purchase.
Under NASA's Artemis program, President Donald Trump's administration envisions a return of American astronauts to the moon by 2024.
NASA has cast such as mission as a precursor to a future first human voyage to Mars.
The bottom line is we are going to buy some lunar soil for the purpose of it demonstrating that it can be done,"
Bridenstine said during an event hosted by the Secure World Foundation, a space policy organization.
Bridenstine said NASA eventually would buy more types of resources such as ice and other materials that may be discovered on the moon.
NASA in May set the stage for a global debate over the basic principles governing how people will live and work on the moon, releasing the main tenets of what it hopes will become an international pact for moon exploration called the Artemis Accords.