Famous flag on the moon from the "Apollo 11" landing
Photo: NASA / Getty Images
China's Chang'e 5 space probe with moon rocks is currently on its way back to Earth.
Now NASA also has new missions in mind.
The US space agency has signed contracts with four private companies to acquire soil samples from the moon.
It is an important precedent in which "private sector companies procure these resources, but NASA can use them," said NASA's international relations officer, Mike Gold, on Thursday.
The companies receive symbolic amounts of just one to 15,000 dollars (around 12,350 euros) for the procurement of the rock samples.
You should procure quantities between 50 and 500 grams.
After the purchase by NASA, all rights to the samples will be transferred to the US Space Agency.
For the companies it is a financial loss.
But they are hoping for scientific knowledge and participation in future lunar projects.
Contracts have been made with the companies Lunar Outpost from the US state of Colorado, iSpace Japan from Tokyo, Ispace Europe from Luxembourg and with the company Masten Space Systems from California.
The companies want to collect the samples using robots for unmanned missions to the moon that are already planned in 2022 and 2023.
They are the forerunners of the "Artemis" program.
From 2024, NASA wants to explore the moon with »Artemis«.
The first step is to set up the "Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway".
This modular space station will orbit the moon and enable moon landings.
Later it will also serve as a starting point for flights to Mars.
The »gateway« platform will also control robots that collect data about the lunar surface.
China in "Chang'e 5" fever
Nasa has not brought any moon rocks to earth for more than 40 years.
China is further there.
After collecting samples, the Chinese probe "Chang'e 5" took off again from the surface of the moon on Thursday evening.
This is reported by the state news agency Xinhua.
It is the first time since 1976 that a spaceship takes off from the surface of the moon.
It is expected that the ascent module will couple back to the spaceship in a next step, which will then bring it out of the orbit of the moon back towards earth in the next few days.
The probe touched down on the lunar surface on Tuesday evening and successfully collected rock samples.
Around two kilograms of material should reach the earth, researchers hope to gain new information about the volcanic activity of the moon.
Japan expects samples from "Ryugu"
The arrival of cosmic material is also expected in Japan at the weekend.
After a space journey of more than five billion kilometers, the Japanese space probe "Hayabusa2" is about to complete its mission.
Six years after her departure to the asteroid "Ryugu", she will drop a capsule with samples of the celestial body on Saturday evening (CET) while flying past Earth over a desert in South Australia.
It is 4.6 billion years old material from the earliest times of the solar system, as the manager of the mission, Makoto Yoshikawa of the Japanese space agency Jaxa, explained.
After that, "Hayabusa2" is to set off on another mission and head for another near-Earth asteroid.
The probe should arrive there in around ten years.
A predecessor model of “Hayabusa 2” brought soil samples from an asteroid to Earth for the first time in 2010.
Icon: The mirror
joe / dpa / AFP