NASA will pay private companies to collect Moon dirt samples

NASA is officially in the market for Moon rocks and it’s willing to pay any company that’s capable of scooping them up.

The space agency is putting out a call for proposals from companies, challenging them to snag small samples of rocks on the Moon’s surface. The companies will have to prove that they have collected lunar samples in some kind of small container by sending pictures and data to NASA. If satisfied, NASA pledges to purchase the samples for between $15,000 and $25,000. Eventually, NASA will retrieve the rock samples and bring them back to Earth.

“We are putting our policies into practice to fuel a new era of exploration and discovery that will benefit all of humanity,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote in a blog post.

NASA has a dozen other projects in the works that will help it prepare for a 2024 Moon mission. It’s also working with the European Space Agency to bring soil samples from Mars back to Earth, and NASA’s OSIRIS-REx team is attempting the agency’s first asteroid sample return mission. As a meteorite discovered in Antarctica recently proved, even a small amount of space rock can lead to big discoveries.

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