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Fancy a mining trip to the moon? Talk to NASA. The US space agency is now offering a leg-up in the commercial race to the moon. Having enjoyed a series of successful partnerships with private companies, such as SpaceX, to send cargo to the International Space Station, NASA now hopes to do the same with moon landers. But contention over lunar property rights may still stymie commercial growth.

In mid-January, NASA announced its lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (CATALYST) programme, which will give participants access to resources including NASA scientists, software and testing labs in exchange for the rights to lander designs born from the partnership.

The project calls for two types of lander: one that can deliver between 30 and 100 kilograms of gear, and one that can carry 250 to 500 kilograms. That surpasses the capabilities demanded by the Google Lunar X Prize, which is offering $20 million to the first group to put a lander on the moon, move it 500 metres and beam pictures back to Earth.

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