The European Space Agency wants to extract valuable resources such as water and oxygen from the moon by 2025.
ESA Partners With ArianeGroup
On its website, the rocket maker ArianeGroup revealed that it has signed a 12-month contract to study and prepare for the extraction of regolith, also known as moon rock.
"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," stated Andre-Hubert Roussel, the CEO of ArianeGroup in a statement.
ArianeGroup, together with Arianespace, partnered with two other companies, the PTScientists and Space Applications Services, to carry out the mission. PTScientists, a German start-up, is tasked to provide the lunar lander. Meanwhile, the Belgian company Space Applications Services is in charge of the ground control facilities, communications, and the associated service operations.
ArianeGroup is making sure that the entire operation — from launch to the moon landing — will be entirely a European operation.
The ESA has also launched a Grand Challenge that encourages private companies to start investing in technology that will help extend the presence of the human race in outer space. A €500,000 or about $567,000 will be handed to innovation that can aid in the space agency's mission to explore the moon, Mars, and farther into the Solar System.
Key sectors include mining, metallurgy, chemical processing, and oil and gas industries.
Mining On The Moon
Regolith is made up of a mix of clays, minerals, and chemical compounds from which valuable resources such as oxygen, water, and fuel can be extracted. The lunar surface is believed to be covered of regolith to a depth of at least 12 feet.
The ESA believes that mining the moon for resources is a necessary step in establishing a permanent lunar base and, one day, a human colony. Mining the moon could also be used to support the growing human population as resources start to deplete on Earth.
ArianeGroup clarified that the company will not be sending humans to the surface of the moon for the mission. They will be using robotic equipment to mine regolith.