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NASA wants to buy moon rocks from private companies

On Mars, humans will have to use materials that are already there, NASA says. So the space agency wants to practice on the moon to figure out the details.

Rock out.
Nic Henry/CNET

NASA wants to buy moon "dirt," or rocks, from private companies, the space agency said in a blog post Thursday. The company or companies winning a contract can collect rocks from any location on the lunar surface, with data that identifies the location, send images to NASA, and "conduct an 'in-place' transfer of ownership" to the space agency.

The idea, apparently, is to start figuring out the details of how humans will use Mars' resources once we get to the red planet.

"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 boss Jim Bridenstine said in the blog post. He's referring to the space agency's Artemis mission to return humans to the moon.

"The ability to conduct in-situ resources utilization (ISRU) will be incredibly important on Mars, "which is why we must proceed with alacrity to develop techniques and gain experience with ISRU on the surface of the moon," he added.

NASA hopes to have the transfer of ownership of the rocks completed before 2024, Bridenstine said in the post.

The space agency 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.

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