BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – A half-century after astronauts collected moon rocks and soil on six Apollo missions, NASA announced it’s opening competition for the next lunar samples.
When the Artemis program gets America back on the moon, at the earliest by 2024, NASA said it will pay private space companies that collect new rocks.
“This is the next step in our efforts to bring the commercial sector into human exploration beyond low Earth orbit,” Dale Ketcham of Space Florida said.
Ketcham said unlike the ’60s and ’70s, these samples are about understanding what it takes to stay on the moon.
“We’re going to need to learn to live off the land so this is a first step in learning how to utilize the resources that are there,” he said.
NASA said companies will have to document how they collected the dirt or the rocks and where on the moon it was gathered.
NASA also said it’s a competition that’s open to international companies as well.
“It’s going to enable us to test a lot of different technologies than the original plan which was a single NASA-designed and built rover.,” Ketcham said. “Now, we’re going to have vehicles all around the Moon and it’s going to get us there faster and cheaper,” he said.
NASA said establishing a permanent presence on the moon will be necessary for eventually going to Mars.