It may look like a barren wasteland, but the European Space Agency has announced bold plans to drill into the Moon and extract lunar soil called regolith.
The space agency has signed a contract with the rocket maker ArianeGroup to prepare for a mission to mine the Regolith ore, which holds oxygen and water. The initial contract would help to decide whether it’s actually feasible to carry out this mining. If it seems possible to do, the ESA hopes that the mission will take place in 2025.
André-Hubert Roussel, CEO of ArianeGroup called the partnership a milestone:
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.
The mining would help make deep space explorations easier, with the Moon used as a refuelling station for those long-haul missions in the future. The resources can be used to create fuel and life-support systems which would be crucial for future voyages.
As well as the Moon’s dust-like soil containing molecular oxygen and water, it is also rich in helium-3 isotopes. According to the ESA, these could be used to provide safer nuclear energy in a fusion reactor. This is because it’s not radioactive and would not produce dangerous waste products. The helium may also be used for fuelling spacecrafts in the future.
After China’s trip to the dark side of the moon and these bold plans from the ESA, we can certainly expect a rapid rise of trips to the Moon in the next few years.
Dr David Parker, Director, Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA, told the Telegraph:
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.
While time and resources are being spent on colonising the moon, it’s unclear as to when humans will land on the Moon again. If we ever did land there, that is…
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