NASA launches its first space-mining company in hunt for valuable Moondust (3 Pics)

 The Moon holds untapped resources worth hundreds of billions of dollars and NASA has been looking to partner up with private companies to bring some of those valuable minerals back to Earth.

It has taken one of the first steps on the road to making Moon mining a reality this week with the first payment ever issued to a company as part of a space resource contract.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson presented Justin Cyrus, CEO of Colorado-based space startup Lunar Outpost, with a token payment of 10 cents - about 7p - to launch the company’s program to bring moon dust back to Earth.

"We had contractual terms with them when they produce their first element," Nelson said.

He added: "We would give them 10% of their contract award. I am happy to present a check for 10% of their bid. Justin, here's a check for 10 cents."

Moondust could one day be used as a building material for future colonists, but NASA needs to bring a substantial quantity back to Earth for testing.

Nelson says that resources mined on the Moon "will play a key role in NASA's Artemis program and the future of space exploration. The ability to extract and use extraterrestrial resources will ensure Artemis operations can be conducted safely and sustainably in support of human exploration".

A Moon base would be a valuable staging post for missions to Mars and beyond
A Moon base would be a valuable staging post for missions to Mars and beyond 
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