Lunar Resource Utilization
Lunar Resource Utilization is the concept of using the resources present on the Moon, such as solar energy, helium-3, and water ice, to support human settlements and exploration.
Objectives of lunar resource utilization:
1. Supporting sustained human presence on the Moon: One of the primary objectives of lunar resource utilization is to provide the necessary resources to support a sustained human presence on the Moon. This includes resources such as water, which can be used for drinking, agriculture, and as a propellant for spacecraft.
2. Enabling deep space exploration: The Moon can serve as a gateway to deep space exploration, and lunar resource utilization can help enable this. By using resources found on the Moon, such as propellants and construction materials, spacecraft can be refueled and repaired in space, reducing the need for resupply missions from Earth.
3. Advancing science and technology: The Moon is a unique environment that offers opportunities for scientific research and technological development. Lunar resource utilization can support this by providing resources for in-situ experiments, as well as materials for building structures and equipment.
4. Supporting commercial activities: Lunar resource utilization could also lead to the development of a new industry focused on the extraction and processing of lunar resources. This could include the production of materials such as oxygen, which could be sold to other space agencies or used to support commercial activities on the Moon.
5. Providing benefits to Earth: The resources found on the Moon, such as helium-3, could have important applications on Earth. Helium-3 is a rare isotope that could be used in fusion reactors to produce clean energy, and the Moon is thought to have large deposits of this resource.
1. In 2020, NASA awarded contracts to three companies - Masten Space Systems, Lunar Outpost, and ispace - to develop technology for lunar resource utilization. The companies will focus on developing systems for excavating and processing lunar regolith, which can be used for construction and to extract resources such as water and oxygen.
2. The European Space Agency (ESA) is also working on lunar resource utilization. In 2019, the agency launched a project called "Moonlight," which aims to develop a system for extracting oxygen from lunar regolith. The project involves several European companies and research institutions.
ESA will either lead or be an international partner in many of these lunar missions – robotic and crewed – including those that envisage a permanent lunar presence. Creating a shared telecommunications and navigation service for these missions would reduce design complexity and make them lighter and more cost efficient.
3. ispace is a private Japanese company that is developing lunar resource utilization technology. The company plans to send several missions to the Moon in the next few years to collect data and test its technology. ispace's long-term goal is to establish a sustainable lunar economy by extracting and selling resources such as water and helium-3., The Moon’s water resources represent untapped potential. Our aspiration is to explore and develop these water resources and spearhead a space-based economy.
Water can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen to produce fuel,
so we are mapping lunar resources to accelerate the pace of space development.
Imagine the Moon supporting construction, energy, steel procurement, communications, transportation, agriculture, medicine, and tourism…
We believe that by 2040 the Moon will support a population of 1,000, with 10,000 people visiting every year.