The US space agency (NASA) is looking to operate a pilot processing plant for lunar resources by 2032, as part of its planned Artemis missions.
According to Gerald Sanders, a NASA scientist, the government body will initially look to quantify potential resources, including energy, water and lunar soil, as a goal to attract commercial investment.
Exploring for minerals and metals, including iron ore and rare earths, as well as planning a trip to Mars will come later, Sanders told a mining conference in Australia.
NASA plans to build a permanent moon-orbiting base called Gateway, similar to the International Space Station (ISS). From there, the agency hopes to build a base on the lunar surface, where it can mine the resources required to fly the first astronauts to other planets.
The first customers are expected to be commercial rocket companies that could use the Moon’s resources for refuelling, water or oxygen.
NASA will send a test drill to the Moon’s surface by the end of next week, with large-scale excavation activities scheduled for 2032.
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