Will pay for Moon dirt: NASA seeks to set law for space mining

NASA wants to buy some moon rocks, and it’s seeking out companies to make space mining trips so that it can establish a legal framework for its galactic aspirations.

The agency is soliciting bids from explorers anywhere on Earth who are willing to finance their own trips to the moon and collect soil or rock samples without actually returning the material to earth. The effort is meant to set a legal precedent for mining on the lunar surface that would allow NASA to one day collect ice, helium or other materials useful to colonies on the moon and, eventually, Mars.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration also wants to demonstrate the potential for “in-situ resource utilization,” or using locally sourced materials for future space missions, it said Thursday. NASA anticipates paying roughly between $15 000 to $25 000 per moon contract, agency Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, though final pricing will be determined by the competition.