NASA unveils Artemis generation spacesuits
NASA has picked companies from the US, Luxembourg and Tokyo to collect small samples of lunar rock to the total tune of $25,001 (£18,548). The US space agency hopes to establish a new business model involving private firms mining resources on the Moon, 48 years after NASA astronauts last landed on the lunar orb. Among the selected firms are Lunar Outpost from Golden, Colorado; Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California; ispace Europe of Luxembourg; and ispace Japan of Tokyo.
Having access to resources in space will play a key role in NASA’s Artemis mission – the twin sister of Apollo.
According to NASA’s ambitions, the lunar programme will establish a sustained human presence on the Moon before the decade is out.
But to achieve this lofty goal, scientists will need to figure out how to best utilise the resources already present there.
Artemis will, for example, target the Moon’s south pole where researchers have found an abundance of frozen water.
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And by paying private firms already tapped to land probes on the Moon to collect rock samples, NASA hopes to learn more about successful in-situ resource utilisation (ISRU).
Mike Gold, NASA’s acting associate administrator for international and interagency relations, said: “These awards expand NASA’s innovative use of public-private partnerships to the Moon.
“We’re excited to join our commercial and international partners to Make Artemis the largest and most diverse global human space exploration coalition in history.
“Space resources are the fuel that will propel America and all of humanity to the stars.”
Phil McAlister, director of Commercial Spaceflight Development at NASA Headquarters, added: “Leveraging commercial involvement enhances our ability to safely return to the Moon in a sustainable, innovative, and affordable fashion.
“A supportive policy for the recovery and use of space resources provides a stable and predictable investment environment for commercial space innovators and entrepreneurs.”
NASA will pay each of the four companies an agreed-upon price for small samples of lunar regolith between 50g and 500g in weight.
Once the samples are collected, the companies will provide NASA with imagery and data that could identify their place of origin.
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NASA said: “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 programme.”
Lunar Outpost will collect samples from the Moon’s South Pole in 2023 for just $1 (0.74).
ispace Japan will collect samples from the Moon’s Lacus Somniorum region in 2022 for $5,000 (£3,719).
ispace Luxembourg will Europe will collect samples from the South Pole in 2023 for $5,000 (£3,719).
Master Space System has proposed collecting lunar rock from the South Pole in 2023 for $15,000 (£11,128).
NASA has been able to keep the cost so low because the agency is only paying for the collection service, rather than missions as a whole.
The agency said: “Companies will receive 10 percent of their total proposed price upon award, will receive 10 percent upon launch, and the remaining 80 percent upon successful completion.
“NASA’s payment is exclusively for the lunar regolith. The agency will determine retrieval methods for the transferred lunar regolith at a later date.”
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