The European Space Agency (ESA) has just signed a one-year contract with ArianeGroup to study and prepare for a mission to go to the Moon with the aim of mining regolith. 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.
To carry out this study, ArianeGroup with Arianespace joined forces 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, the communications and the associated service operations. This 100% European innovative consortium could thus provide services for the entire mission, from launch and moon transfer to moon landing and communication on the moon’s surface of the payloads needed for the mission.
“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,” explained André-Hubert Roussel, CEO of ArianeGroup. “It is also an opportunity to recall the ability of Ariane 64 to carry out Moon missions for its institutional customers, with a payload capacity of up to 8.5 metric tons. 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 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.