An artistic rendering of Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander, contracted to take payloads to the Moon for NASA’s CLPS program. | Image: Astrobotic

NASA is officially in the market for Moon rocks — and it’s willing to pay any company that’s capable of scooping them up.

Today, the space agency is putting out a call for proposals from companies, challenging them to snag small samples of rocks on the Moon’s surface. The companies will have to prove that they have collected lunar samples in some kind of small container by sending pictures and data to NASA. If satisfied, NASA pledges to purchase the samples for up to $50,000, according to a source familiar with the matter. Eventually, NASA will retrieve the rock samples and bring them back to Earth.

NASA ultimately wants the exchange to happen before 2024 — the agency’s current deadline for sending people back to the Moon. For companies…

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