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article imageESA and ArianeGroup sign contract to study planned moon mission

By Karen Graham     Jan 22, 2019 in Science
The European Space Agency (ESA) on Monday awarded a one-year contract to ArianeGroup to study and prepare for a mission to the Moon with the aim of mining regolith.
This is an innovative and wholly European consortium that aims to provide services for the entire mission. ArianeGroup, along with its subsidiary Arianespace, will join forces with privately-funded German startup, PTScientists, which will provide the lunar lander, and a Belgian company, Space Applications Services, which will provide ground segment, communications, and related services.
The launch vehicle for the unmanned mission will be the Ariane 6 in its Ariane 64 configuration - with four strap-on boosters. The Ariana 6 has a payload capacity of 8.5 metric tons. The Ariane 6 engines will use 3D printed components and will be the first large rocket to use a laser ignition system developed by the Austrias Carinthian Research Center (CTR).
In space, in-situ resource use (ISRU) is the practice of collecting, processing, storing and using materials found or produced on other celestial bodies (Moon, Mars, asteroids, etc.) to replace materials that would otherwise be brought from Earth.
Launcher family from the Vega to Ariane 64.
Launcher family from the Vega to Ariane 64.
ESA
Mining regolith on the moon
ABC News is reporting the company says "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."
If you're wondering what regolith is, you may be surprised to learn it is not as strange as the name implies. Regolith is a term used to describe loose unconsolidated rock and dust that sits atop a layer of bedrock or other solid rock.
A lightweight simulator version of NASA s Resource Prospector undergoes a mobility test in a regolit...
A lightweight simulator version of NASA's Resource Prospector undergoes a mobility test in a regolith bin at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA
Regolith can include dust, soil, broken rock, and other related materials and is present on Earth, the Moon, Mars, some asteroids, and other terrestrial planets and moons. The American geologist George P. Merrill first defined the term in 1897.
Regolith covers almost the entire lunar surface. It was formed over the past 4.6 million years by the impact of large and small meteoroids, and from solar and galactic charged particles breaking down surface rocks. The depth of the regolith varies from 4 to 5 meters thick on up to 10 to 15 meters in the moon's older highland regions.
A bar diagram showing the chemical composition of lunar soil or regolith.
A bar diagram showing the chemical composition of lunar soil or regolith.
Hateras
Remember the term in-situ resource use (ISRU)? Instead of hauling tons of Earth regolith, such as soil and other loose rocks and dust to the moon or other planets in order to have something to create oxygen and water - ISRU can be used to make use of the regolith found on the moon.
The composition of the regolith can also strongly influence water composition through the presence of salts and acid-generating materials. A number of lunar missions, including the Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 in 2008, and NASA's Deep Impact and Cassini probes, among other missions, have all supplied data that supports the prescense of water molecules on the moon.
More about Esa, ArianaGroup, Regolith, Moon mission, water and oxygen
 
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