NASA sees moon lunar mining trial within the next decade

NASA is looking to develop resources on the moon that initially include oxygen and water, and may eventually expand to iron and rare earths, and has already taken steps toward excavating lunar soil in 2032, a scientist said Wednesday.

The US space agency plans to return Americans to the Moon as part of the Artemis mission by 2025 and learn from the mission to facilitate a trip to Mars.

An essential part of the mission is to develop commercial opportunities in the space. Gerald Sanders, a rocket scientist at NASA’s Johnston Space Center for 35 years, said the agency is looking to identify potential resources, including energy, water and lunar soil, as a target to attract commercial investment.

Sanders said that developing access to resources on the moon would be key to lowering costs and developing a circular economy.

“We’re trying to invest in the exploration phase and understand the resources… to lower the risk so that outside investment makes sense and could lead to development and production,” he told a mining conference in Brisbane.

“We’re literally just scratching the surface,” he said. At the end of the month, NASA will send a test drilling rig to the moon and plans large-scale drilling of lunar soil, or regolith, and an experimental processing plant in 2032.

The first customers are expected to be commercial rocket companies that could use the moon’s resources for fuel or oxygen.

The Australian Space Agency is involved in developing a semi-autonomous rover that will sample regolith on a NASA mission as early as 2026, said Samuel Webster, assistant administrator at the agency.

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The probe will show the group of lunar soils that contain oxygen in the form of oxides.

With separate equipment sent to the moon with the rover, he said, NASA will aim to extract that oxygen.

“This … is a major step towards establishing a sustainable human presence on the Moon, as well as (as well as) supporting future missions to Mars,” he told the conference.


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