NASA is willing to pay $25,000 to any company to bring back samples of the Moon. Dust or rocks.
NASA is expecting some private company to go to the Moon, get some rocks, bring it safely back to Earth—for only $25,000?! That’s less than the cost of a car these days! Soo, someone is supposed to just drive up to the moon in car? Imagine the cost of the gas!
An inc.com metered article speculates about the $25,000 reward:
$25,000 is paltry compensation for such a mission, so any companies that participate won’t be in this for money. Instead, it’s an incentive to test out new technologies, including those that could be later used to extract resources like water ice from the moon.
Odd how NASA is encouraging mining operations to set up on the moon
This request might be in conflict with the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty. Hopefully, the Moon will be treated with respect when these rocks/dust are collected.
Chasing after China?
In May 2020, China announced a plan where they would be collecting lunar samples by the end of 2020. This robotic moon mission is named Chang’e 5. According to space.com it will, “land in the Rümker region, located in the northern Oceanus Procellarum (‘Ocean of Storms’). The area is geologically complex and known for its volcanic activity.” They plan on returning up to 4.4 pounds of lunar rocks/soil.
Perhaps NASA felt like they needed to do something, anything. Knowing that they couldn’t get a robot mission to the Moon, maybe they were just tossing it up in the air to see if any corporation was going to throw their hat in the ring for America.
The title of the work statement on the PDF contract is quite official-sounding, “Lunar Regolith Purchase Request Performance Work Statement“. Heh. “Lunar regolith”. In other words, “moon rocks”.
NASA getting design ideas?
Reddit user WasteIntention6 points out: “Foreign company will have to get their plan vetted by nasa before getting the contract. Part of that is letting nasa poke through their craft designs.”
This isn’t the only open solicitation from NASA
NASA has a bunch of open solicitations and opportunities:
- Lunar Vertical Solar Array Technology NASA Research Announcement
Proposals due: November 16, 2020
- 2021 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) / Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I solicitation
Proposals due: January 8, 2020
- Watts on the Moon Challenge
Phase 1 Registration and Submission Deadline: March 25, 2021
- Break the Ice Challenge
Phase 1 Registration and Submission Deadline: June 18, 2021
NASA also has upcoming solicitations
- 2021 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Phase II and Phase III solicitation – December 2020
- Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Industry Solicitation (to be released by the U.S. Department of Energy) – TBD 2021
- Fission Surface Power System Design Solicitation (to be released by the U.S. Department of Energy) – TBD 2021
- 2021 Early Career Faculty solicitation – February 2021
- 2021 Early Stage Innovations solicitation – April 2021
- 2022 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts Phase I solicitation – June 2021
Raining diamonds on Jupiter?
My favorite insight is from Reddit user MrBosski, “I heard it rains diamonds on Jupiter. But you have to start somewhere.”
According to space.com, there might be some truth to that! You gotta love the image space.com runs with that article:
Exciting that more moon rocks could come back to Earth
Moon rocks are so fascinating. I even made art about moon rocks.