NASA is now working with private companies to take the first steps in exploring the moon for valuable resources like helium 3 and rare earth metals.
Initial proposals are due tomorrow for the Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown program (CATALYST). One or more private companies will win a contract to build prospecting robots, the first step toward mining the moon.
The contract will be a “no funds exchanged” Space Agreement Act, which means the government will not be directly funding the effort, but will receive NASA support. Final proposals are due on March 17th, 2014. NASA has not said when it will announce the winner.