Plans for a European base on the moon have taken a major step forward.
The European Space Agency revealed it has signed up rocket maker ArianeGroup to develop plans for a moon base that could be used to mine material from the lunar surface.
The project will ‘examine the possibility of going to the Moon before 2025 and starting to work there’ – and could trigger a new space race as countries rush to harness lunar resources.
The one-year contract aims to eventually mine regolith on the lunar surface.
‘As ESA and other agencies prepare to send humans back to the Moon – this time to stay – technologies that make use of materials available in space (in-situ resource utilisation) are seen as key to sustainability, and a stepping stone in humankind’s adventure to Mars and farther into the Solar System,’ the space agency said.
‘In the longer term, resources in space may even be used on Earth.’
‘Regolith is an ore from which it is possible to extract water and oxygen, thus enabling an independent human presence on the Moon to be envisaged, capable of producing the fuel needed for more distant exploratory missions, ESA 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.’ added Dr. David Parker; Director, Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA.