As humans learn to live and work independently from Earth, future explorers in deep space may be able to make use of resources found naturally in extraterrestrial soil.
Robotic missions to the moon could inform our Journey to Mars and how we might use available materials to generate water, oxygen and fuel in space. Understanding the availability of resources on the moon will be very important in developing strategies for the pioneering of deep space.
NASA is seeking information from potential partners to gather data on small payloads that could be delivered to the surface of the moon as early as the 2017-2020 timeframe using emerging U.S. commercial lunar cargo transportation service providers. NASA is interested in understanding directly from payload developers the state of development of payloads and instruments that could enhance our understanding of the moon. Further, NASA is looking for payloads where development and operations are highly cost-shared, with significant contributions from the payload provider. Such capabilities could support commercial activities on the moon while enabling new science and exploration missions of interest to NASA and the larger scientific and academic communities. Robotic explorers could help NASA and its partners understand the availability of potential resources that make up the building blocks of rocket fuel and could even help to form basic materials required for in-space manufacturing, as well as breathable air and potable water.
NASA recognizes the U.S. industry's interest in reaching and exploring the moon, and has partnered with companies to help them advance robotic lunar lander capabilities that could deliver payloads to the surface of the moon. This request for information builds on that interest and enables NASA to investigate cost-effective approaches for sending instruments or other payloads to the lunar surface to refine our understanding of the moon and its potential role in future exploration activities, and to further encourage the commercial use of space.
"There are many stepping stones on the Journey to Mars, and though we have gathered a great deal of information over the decades about the Moon from the earliest robotic probes, from the Apollo missions, and more recently from spacecraft such as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and others by NASA and the international community, there is still much more that we need to learn," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations. "Today's request for information reflects NASA's interest in improving our understanding of the Moon's potential for exploration, and leveraging the private sector's investments in commercial space companies to help us do so."
This is a request for information only and is being used to obtain information for planning purposes only. It is not a request for proposal, and the government does not intend to award a contract at this time.
The full Request for Information can be accessed at https://www.fbo.gov/notices/cbcd56e6afbd7dfad1ef9cd0fb52b6f7
Deadline for responses is December 9, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. EST. NASA will hold an informational teleconference for this RFI on November 9, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. EST.