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The European Space Agency wants to mine the Moon



It’s been 50 years since the first manned missions reached the Moon. Now the European Space Agency (ESA) wants to go, but rather than just exploring Earth’s satellite, the agency wants to mine it as well.
In-situ utilisation of ores such as regolith could open up possibilities for the establishment of moon bases.
(In-situ utilisation of ores such as regolith could open up possibilities for the establishment of moon bases. Image via the European Space Agency).

The ESA has signed a contract with ArianeGroup, a world-ldeaing space exploration research company, to study and prepare for a mission to go to the Moon with the aim of mining regolith.

Why mine regolith?

It’s all about sustaining a permanent manned presence on the Moon.

Regolith is an ore from which it is possible to extract water and oxygen, thus enabling an independent human presence on the Moon- capable of producing the fuel needed to explore even further into space.

Regolith is found extensively across the Moon’s surface and resembles a fine, dry powder. It has been formed over approximately 4.5 billion years as micrometeorids struck the Moon’s surface, creating regolith.

In terms of actually getting the ESA’s crew to the Moon in the first place, ArianeGroup will be providing their Ariane 64, a 4-booster version of their Ariane 6 rocket. To assist them in the mission, ArianeGroup will be working with German start-up PTScientists, which will provide the lunar lander, and a Belgian SME, Space Applications Services, which will provide the ground control facilities. In all, the campaign is a 100% European effort.
An ArianeGroup rocket in action.
(An ArianeGroup rocket in action. Image via ArianeGroup).

“This first contract- symbolically announced on the day of a lunar eclipse- is a milestone for ArianeGroup, which has for a long time been working on technological proposals for space logistics servicing,” explains Andre-Hubert Roussel, CEO of ArianeGroup. “It is also an opportunity to recall the ability of Ariane 64 to carry out Moon missions for its institutional customers, with a payload capacity of up to 8.5 metric tons. In this year, marking the fiftieth anniversary of Man’s first steps on the Moon, ArianeGroup will thus support all current and future European projects, in line with its mission to guarantee independent, sovereign access to space for Europe”.

Roussel’s comments are echoed by David Parker, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at the ESA, when says:

“The use of space resources could be a key to sustainable lunar exploration and this study is part of ESA’s comprehensive plan to make Europe a partner in global exploration in the next decade- a plan we will put to our Ministers for decision later this year at the Space19+ Conference”.

The Moon has long been eyed by ambitious prospectors for the vast amounts of commodities, precious metals and rare earth elements it could contain. Simultaneously, the development of in-situ utilisation as outlined above raises the possibility of moon bases- something that was long the realm of science-fiction.

So, is the mining industry heading for the stars? This new study from ArianeGroup could be an important step in making that a reality as soon as 2025.

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Tags: Engineering
Recent Comments
The impossible dream will be made possible with the talented & ambitious person with theirs capital & goal for the sake of human living on earth & for such an extent as much as they can as a builder & not a destroyer of nature in the universe, many are willing to be a part of this.
Lito Marucut, 26 January 2019
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The European Space Agency wants to mine the Moon - Time to read 3 min
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