Welcome to the future? NASA now accepting applications to mine the moon

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Feb 10, 2014, 10:56 AM EST

As part of NASA’s new cost-cutting strategy to work with private space firms, the government agency is now accepting applications from firms that want to mine the moon. Seriously.

Initial proposals are due today for NASA’s Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown program (CATALYST) program, with at least one private company expected to be awarded a contract to develop prospecting robots — with the eventual goal of mining the moon. Those prospecting 'bots will be looking for things like rare earth elements and helium 3.

Though countries are prohibited from claiming the moon via the 1967 Outer Space Treaty of the United Nation, lunar mining rights are a much trickier topic. Things get even messier when you shy away from governments and introduce private space firms into the mix. Planetary science professor Ian Crawford had this to say about the issue in an interview with The Telegraph:

“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. Clearly that is changing now and there is a case for developing the outer space treaty to include private organizations that may wish to exploit the moon.”

Much like other public-private initiatives, the eventual deal will be a “no funds exchanged” Space Agreement Act, which means NASA will support the project but not directly fund it. Though initial proposals are due today, NASA will not receive final proposals until March 17, so it’ll be at least then before we know what comes next.

What do you think about the potential repercussions, or advantages, of mining the moon?

(Via The Verge)