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NASA seeks space mining law

full moon

The full moon sets behind the trees in the Taunus region near Frankfurt, Germany on May 7, 2020. Photo for reference only
Image Credit: AP

NASA wants to buy moon rocks and is looking for companies to take space exploration trips so it can establish a legal framework for its galactic aspirations.

The agency is soliciting offers from explorers all over Earth who are willing to fund their own trips to the Moon and collect soil or rock samples without actually returning the material to Earth. The effort aims to set a legal precedent for mining on the lunar surface that would allow NASA to someday collect ice, helium, or other useful materials for colonies on the moon and, eventually, on Mars.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration also wants to demonstrate the potential of an “in situ use of resources” or of using local materials for future space missions, he said Thursday. NASA expects to pay around $ 15,000 (Dh55,094) to $ 25,000 per moon contract, agency administrator Jim Bridenstine said, although the final price is determined by the competition.

Activities beyond the earth plane are currently governed by the United Nations Treaty on Outer Space of 1967. Signed by the United States, it bans extraterrestrial military bases or nuclear weapons and basically requires nations to explore in peace and clean up their own mess.

In particular, the treaty states that outer space is not subject to “national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by use or occupation, or by any other means”. But it doesn’t specifically deal with space mining.

“It’s time for regulatory certainty to extract and trade space assets,” Bridenstine said in a tweet.

The successful bidder “will collect up to 500 grams (1.1 pounds) of lunar material, photograph it, document its location, and then” perform an ‘on-site’ transfer of ownership of the lunar regolith or rocks to NASA, “he said. the agency said, in a blog post, NASA will sort out recovery plans for the material at a later date.

It is not yet clear who could become a candidate. Landing on the moon is neither cheap nor easy, and NASA will only pay for the lunar material collected. The contractor will be responsible for all costs associated with the mission, NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz said in an email.

Financially, the contract would make more sense for explorers who are already planning lunar trips. India is planning a second attempt to land a rover on the moon after its first attempt failed in September 2019. A $ 100 million privately funded Israeli mission to land on the lunar surface failed in April 2019. In March 2018, Google and the XPrize Foundation ended its mission. $ 30 million in lunar competition after several private teams were unable to launch and land a small rover on the moon and drive it at least 500 meters (1,640 feet).

NASA’s Artemis program aims to land astronauts on the moon in 2024.

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