The US space agency NASA has selected four companies to collect lunar samples. These four companies are Lunar Outpost, Masten Space Systems, ispace Europe, and ispace Japan. The development takes the space agency a step forward for its Artemis program. NASA is working on a mission for human exploration of the Moon. According to NASA, USD 25,001 contracts with these companies are exclusively for the lunar regolith. The agency said that it will determine retrieval methods later. The lunar resources are believed to play a key role in NASA’s Artemis mission. NASA aims to land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface by 2024.
According to NASA, a detailed study of the lunar samples will help scientists in planning the Artemis operations accordingly. This will ensure the missions can be conducted safely. Top NASA executive Mike Gold said the contracts will expand the agency’s innovative use of international partners to the Moon. NASA claimed that the Artemis program is the largest human space exploration coalition in the history of space science. These four companies are tasked to collect a small amount of lunar regolith. They can collect materials from any location. They will have to provide imagery of the collection. Besides, the companies will have to submit data to identify the location.
NASA said that it will pay the companies to transfer the ownership of the data collected from the lunar surface. ispace Japan has proposed to collect lunar samples in 2022 from the northeastern side. Lunar Outpost said that is planning to retrieve lunar samples from the South Pole in 2023. Masten Space Systems and ispace Europe are planning to bring back lunar samples in 2023. Under the Artemis program, NASA will launch three rockets. The Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight. It will be launched in 2021. The Artemis II will be a crewed mission. It will be launched in 2023. It will perform a lunar flyby and return to Earth. The Artemis III will be the final mission that will take humans to Moon. It is proposed for a launch in 2024.