The European Space Agency has awarded ArianeGroup a contract to prepare for a mission to the Moon with the aim of mining regolith.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded a one-year contract to ArianeGroup to study and prepare for a mission to the Moon with the aim of mining regolith. With a payload capacity of up to 8.5 metric tons, Ariane 6 in its Ariane 64 version (four strap-on boosters) would have the capability to carry out such a mission.
Regolith is an ore from which it is possible to extract water and oxygen, enabling an autonomous human presence on the Moon with the capability of producing the fuel needed for more distant exploratory missions.
To carry out this study, ArianeGroup with Arianespace has teamed with a German start-up, PTScientists, which will provide the lunar lander, and a Belgian SME, Space Applications Services, which will provide the ground control facilities, communications and associated service operations.
This all-European consortium could thus provide services for the entire mission, from launch and moon transfer to moon landing and communication on the moon’s surface.
David Parker, Director, Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA, says that the study is part of ESA’s comprehensive plan to make Europe a partner in global exploration in the next decade — a plan that will be proposed to European Ministers for decision later this year at the Space19+ Conference.