NASA is examining proposals from private companies, who are bidding for the project to explore the moon for valuable resources like Helium 3 and other rare earth metals. It is possible than one or more of the companies will succeed in winning the contract to build capable robots for mining the moon.

The Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown program, or CATALYST for short, will mean a contract with a “no funds exchanged” Space Agreement Act. In other words it will not be directly funded by the government but instead will receive support from NASA.

The Moon

This will not be an unusual type of partnership for NASA, who already successfully work along with private companies on servicing the International Space Station. Having such a tight budget, it’s important for the space agency to look for new ways to collaborate with the private sector if it wants to continue its research and exploration work.

There has been some debate over the legalities of mining on the moon due to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty of the United Nations, which states that no country can lay claim to the moon.

“There’s a strong case for developing international law in this area because in 1967 it was not envisaged that anyone other than nation states would be able to explore the moon,” said Ian Crawford, a planetary science professor. “Clearly that is changing now and there is a case for developing the outer space treaty to include private organizations that may wish to explore the moon.”

Final proposals are due in by March 17th but NASA has not said when the winner will be announced, so what this space.

[Image via Universe Today]