Swallowing its pride, NASA says it wants to learn from future commercial missions to the moon – and it is willing to pay up to $30 million for the privilege.
The space agency wants to take advantage of the flurry of activity sparked by the Google-funded Lunar X Prize, says Michael Braukus, a spokesperson at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.
That competition, announced in 2007, offers $20 million for the first non-government entity to land a robotic rover on the moon, provided it occurs before the end of 2012. Twenty-one teams are vying for the prize.
NASA believes it can learn from these missions, Braukus says. The agency is prepared to spend a total of $30 million – up to $10 million per mission – for data returned to Earth that would be useful for future human or robotic missions of its own, it has announced.