Both the ESA’s current Lunar Agenda and the agency’s strategy regarding lunar exploration are robust, and it will be exciting to follow what they have in mind.
The image of the Moon that you can see above was snapped by ESA’s astronaut Alexander Gerst during his stay on the International Space Station, as part of the ongoing Horizons mission. The beauty of the Moon and the vast range of possibilities that our satellite is offering for humans, from Helium-3 to becoming a “gateway” for future deep space missions, made space agencies around the world think of new strategies on lunar exploration and colonization.
As for its part, between July 3rd and 5th, ESA held a lunar exploration workshop at its technology center in the Netherlands. On the basis of ESA’s engagement in a sustainable exploration of the Moon, the event gathered space scientists and experts from industry to address lunar resources and the ways to harness them to return men to the Moon, in the perspective of the lunar colonization, and further beyond.
ESA plans to use lunar resources to “power” the future lunar exploration and colonization missions
For people to be able to inhabit the Moon and do regular activities there, such as working, making a family, and so on, they would require both water and oxygen, but also fuel and equipment to construct habitats and facilities. Delivering the consumables and the needed resources from Earth to the Moon would be very costly and would turn the Solar System exploration, and lunar exploration, subsequently, unsustainable.
That’s why ESA is exploring the potential capacities that could allow men to exploit lunar resources for a sustainable human comeback to the Moon. The concept is referred to as In-Situ Resource Utilization. In a nutshell, it involves on-site resources mining and processing to develop practical goods and services.
In the meantime, the closest humans to the Moon, the astronauts on the ISS, are probing new technologies and conducting new experiments to help humans get closer to the lunar exploration and the future lunar colonization.