NASA is preparing for its long-awaited return to the Moon after more than 50 years, when it landed a slew of astronauts there, but this time the mission was more ambitious than simply leaving footprints. The space agency aims to mine the moon for valuable resources, with plans to launch the initiative as early as the next decade.
NASA plans to send a drilling rig to the Moon next month for full-scale lunar regolith mining by 2032. As reported by The Guardian, a NASA Johnston Space Center scientist, Gerald Sanders, revealed the plans during a speech at the World Mining Conference in Brisbane, and Sanders outlined the agency’s goal to assess and identify potential resources available on the moon, and said: We try to invest in the exploration phase, the understanding of the resources. In order to (decrease) the risks so that the outside investment makes sense and can lead to development and production.
In 2017, the space agency officially unveiled the Artemis program, which aims to achieve a historic feat by landing the first woman and first person of color on the moon by 2025.
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In the near future, there are plans to deploy a drilling rig to the moon to kick-start lunar exploration efforts. The Australian Space Agency is actively involved in this endeavor and is collaborating on the development of a semi-autonomous rover, which should be operational by 2026, which will collect regolith samples from the lunar surface. As part of large-scale exploration plans, an experimental processing plant is expected to come on stream in 2032.
Samuel Webster, NASA deputy administrator, said the rover’s primary goal was to investigate the presence of oxygen in the lunar soil, particularly in the form of oxides. To achieve this, separate equipment will be used to extract oxygen from the ground, Webster mentioned.
By extracting resources such as water, iron, rare metals and possibly helium-3, the agency aims to open up new possibilities for sustainable space travel and energy production.