NASA makes a $1 deal to buy material on the moon

NASA has selected four companies to collect material on the moon and store it up as the space agency’s property, for a total price of $25,001. And one deal stands out: a $1 purchase that may rely on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture.

Although this sounds like the sort of deal Amazon might have offered on Cyber Monday, neither Seattle-based Amazon nor Kent, Wash.-based Blue Origin is directly involved in the purchase.

Instead, NASA accepted a $1 offer from Colorado-based Lunar Outpost, based on the expectation that the venture can set aside a sample for NASA when Blue Origin sends a robotic Blue Moon lander to the moon’s south polar region in 2023.

Lunar Outpost CEO Justin Cyrus said his company’s collection system could fly on any lander heading to the moon, and not necessarily on the Blue Moon lander. But in order to have the $1 deal accepted, Lunar Outpost had to give NASA adequate assurances that it could fly with Blue Origin.


Masten to deliver science to moon’s south pole

XL-1 lander
Artwork shows Masten Space Systems’ XL-1 lander on the moon. (Masten Space Systems Illustration)

NASA has selected California-based Masten Space Systems to deliver eight science payloads to the moon’s south pole in 2022 on its XL-1 lunar lander.

Seattle-based Olis Robotics has a role in getting one of those payloads, a robotic arm, ready to fly.

The $75.9 million contract was awarded to Masten under the terms of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, or CLPS — which provides opportunities for the space agency to order lunar delivery services from commercial providers, in a way that’s similar to ordering a rideshare trip on earthly streets. In 2018, Masten was one of the first delivery providers that NASA put on its CLPS list.

Masten hasn’t yet flown anything in space, but it’s been working on its lander technology for more than a decade in partnership with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Air Force Research Laboratory, among others. Back in 2009, Masten won more than a million dollars in the NASA-funded Lunar Lander Challenge.

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NASA picks 25 space technologies for testing

Suborbital rocket ships
Three of the vehicles to be used for testing space technologies are Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, Blue Origin’s New Shepard spaceship and Masten Space Systems’ lander vehicle. (Virgin Galactic / Blue Origin / Masten via NASA)

NASA’s Flight Opportunities program has selected 25 promising space technologies for testing aboard aircraft, high-altitude balloons and suborbital rocket ships — including Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft.

Blue Origin, the space venture created by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and headquartered in Kent, Wash., will be involved in testing 11 of the technologies. The company has been providing flights for suborbital space experiments since 2016 at its West Texas spaceport.

The latest projects were selected as part of NASA’s Tech Flights solicitation. Awardees typically receive a grant or enter into a cost-sharing agreement through which they can select a commercial flight provider that meets the requirements for their payload.

“With vibrant and growing interest in exploration and commercial space across the country, our goal with these selections is to support innovators from industry and academia who are using rapid and affordable commercial opportunities to test their technologies in space,” Christopher Baker, program executive for Flight Opportunities at NASA Headquarters, said in a news release.

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