While it plans to get its own lunar samples via its Artemis human lunar programme, in the meantime NASA has selected four companies to collect some and transfer ownership of these samples to the agency. The companies selected are: Lunar Outpost of Golden, Colorado; Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California; ispace Europe of Luxembourg; and ispace Japan of Tokyo. The dollar value of these contracts very low totalling only US$25,001 of which Lunar Outpost is only receiving a single dollar. The Companies will receive 10% of their total proposed price upon award, 10% at launch, and the remaining 80% upon successful completion – meaning that Lunar Outpost which only bid and was awarded one US dollar for its service, will only get ten cents initially.
Details about the selection are:
- Lunar Outpost proposed collection for $1 following arrival of a lander to the lunar South Pole in 2023.
- ispace Japan proposed collection for $5,000 following arrival in 2022 of a lander to Lacus Somniorum on the Moon’s north-eastern near side.
- ispace Europe proposed collection for $5,000 following arrival in 2023 of a lander to the lunar South Pole.
- Masten Space Systems proposed collection for $15,000 following arrival in 2023 of a lander to the lunar South Pole.
The awards have been made partly as a legal test in international law to make certain that lunar minerals can be recovered. The companies will collect a small amount of lunar regolith from any location on the Moon and provide imagery to NASA of the collection and the collected material, along with data that identifies the collection location. Subsequent to receiving such imagery and data, an “in-place” transfer of ownership of the lunar regolith to NASA will take place. After ownership transfer, the collected material becomes the sole property of NASA for the agency’s use under the Artemis program.