NASA wants to buy moon “dirt,” or rocks, from private companies, the space agency said on Thursday. The companies can collect rocks from any location on the lunar surface, with data that identifies the location, and send images to NASA, so they don’t have to bring the rocks back to Earth. The company will then transfer ownership to NASA, who’ll pick up the rocks.
The goal is to have the retrieval and transfer of ownership completed before 2024, NASA boss Jim Bridenstine noted in the blog post.
“Next-generation lunar science and technology is a main objective for returning to the Moon and preparing for Mars,” he wrote. “Over the next decade, the Artemis program will lay the foundation for a sustained long-term presence on the lunar surface and use the Moon to validate deep space systems and operations before embarking on the much farther voyage to Mars.”
NASA has in the past worked with private space companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin, which are respectively owned by Tesla’s Elon Musk and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.