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NASA picks 4 companies to collect lunar resources

Washington: Taking a critical step forward in its lunar exploration goals, NASA has selected four commercial companies to collect lunar resources as part of the Artemis programme that aims to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024.

The four companies selected by NASA are Colorado-based Lunar Outpost of Golden; Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California; ispace Europe of Luxembourg; and ispace Japan of Tokyo.

Overall, the new NASA contracts with these companies totals $25,001, the US space agency said on Thursday.

NASA's payment is exclusively for the lunar regolith. The agency will determine retrieval methods for the transferred lunar regolith at a later date.

Space resources will play a key role in NASA's Artemis programme and future space exploration.

The ability to extract and use extraterrestrial resources will ensure Artemis operations can be conducted safely and sustainably in support of establishing human lunar exploration, NASA said.

"These awards expand NASA's innovative use of public-private partnerships to the Moon. We're excited to join with our commercial and international partners to make Artemis the largest and most diverse global human space exploration coalition in history," said Mike Gold, NASA's Acting Associate Administrator for International and Interagency Relations.

"Space resources are the fuel that will propel America and all of humanity to the stars."

The companies will collect a small amount of lunar regolith from any location on the Moon and provide imagery to NASA of the collection and the collected material, along with data that identifies the collection location.

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 proposed collection of lunar samples following arrival of a lander to the lunar South Pole in 2023, while ispace Japan proposed collection following arrival in 2022 of a lander to Lacus Somniorum on the Moon's northeastern near side.

Masten Space Systems proposed collection following arrival in 2023 of a lander to the lunar South Pole and ispace Europe proposed collection following arrival in 2023 of a lander to the lunar South Pole.