The European Space Agency plans to organize a mission in 2025 to show the feasibility of using lunar resources. The exploration can only be carried out by robots capable of cooperating. A first simulation has just been successfully carried out.
Among the robots in development at the European Space Agency (ESA), those capable of cooperating will play a key role in future space exploration missions, including missions to Mars.
Announced in 2015 by former European Space Agency (ESA) Director Jan Wörner, the Moon Village, a utopian vision of a human and/or robotic lunar base, is now taking shape. ESA plans to launch the first In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) demonstration mission to the Moon in 2025. At the beginning of April 2021, the robotic platform in charge of this mission has just proven itself in an analog environment.
Robots to prepare lunar outposts
To stay on the Moon, humans will need resources: water, oxygen and building materials to make their habitat. However, it would be too costly to transport these raw materials from Earth by spacecraft; it is therefore preferable to use the resources present on site (in situ). Only robots can exploit these resources before the arrival of humans. Oxygen extracted from lunar regolith can be used as an oxidizer to make fuel and to generate artificial atmosphere in habitats; regolith will also be used as a building material for housing structures that will be 3D printed.
The ISRU facilities would thus serve as outposts and would also deliver hydrogen and oxygen to various points in lunar space.
A European consortium
This mission was assigned to the project called PRO-ACT (Planetary Robots Deployed for Assembly and Construction Tasks), which was tasked with implementing the cooperation of several robotic systems to perform different tasks (including site preparation) on a lunar mission and demonstrating their functionality in a lunar mission scenario.
Initiated on February 1, 2019, the project was completed as planned at the end of March 2021, despite difficulties related to the coronavirus pandemic, which did not allow for joint testing…