The European Space Agency (ESA) is hoping to start mining on the Moon by 2025. The ESA has signed a 12-month contract with the rocket maker ArianeGroup to study and prepare for the mission which aims to extract regolith, or Moon rock.
Regolith covers the entire lunar surface to a depth of at least 12 feet, as it made up of a mix of clays, glass fragments, minerals and chemical compounds like iron oxide from which oxygen, water and fuel could be extracted.
Many space agencies now believe space mining is crucial for the establishment of permanent lunar bases or colonies.
Dr David Parker, Director, Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA, said: “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.”
ArianeGroup with Arianespace is joining forces with a German start-up, PTScientists, which will design and build the lunar lander, and a Belgian company, Space Applications Services, which will provide the ground control facilities, the communications and the associated service operations.