European Space Agency has sights set on mining the moon – by Mark R. Whittington (The Hill – February 1, 2019)

The European Space Agency has partnered with ArianeGroup to study a possible mission to the moon in 2025 to test the mining of lunar regolith, according to Popular Mechanics. Part-Time Scientists, a German group and former Google Lunar XPrize contestant, will also be involved in the study.

The goal is to place a lander on the lunar surface to mine and process regolith for useful materials such as water, oxygen, metals and an isotope called helium-3, which may prove useful for fueling future fusion reactors.

Regolith, according to Universe Today, is a dust-like material that covers the lunar surface and is the result of billions of years of meteor and comet impacts. Future lunar settlers could use the regolith to build habitats for a moon base, or as the Europeans call it, a Moon Village using 3D printers and robotic assemblers.

The study will assess how to gather the regolith, process it into useful materials, and store them for the long term. The lander would be a prototype for future lunar mining facilities.

The proposed mission would launch on a version of ArianeGroup’s launcher Ariane 6, which is still in development. Part-Time Scientists would provide the lunar lander. The German group is already putting together a private mission to the Apollo 17 landing site to examine its current state almost five decades after human beings last walked on the moon.

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