In-Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) Demonstration Mission
|In-situ resource utilisation.
Credit: ESA–K. Oldenburg
ESA is currently preparing a lunar surface mission to demonstrate technologies needed to enable in-situ resource utilisation (ISRU) on the Moon. The goal of this ISRU mission is to show, by 2025, that water or oxygen production on the Moon is feasible. Oxygen is likely to be the first resource produced locally and used in support of human missions. It could find applications in life support systems and be used together with hydrogen as fuel for power and propulsion systems. Different processes and techniques have been developed for extracting chemically-bound oxygen from the lunar regolith, the layer of dust covering the lunar terrain. Other products of these processes are metals and alloys that could eventually be used for manufacturing.
A widespread presence of water in the form of ice has also been detected in and around the permanently shadowed areas of the polar regions. These deposits could be a valuable source of hydrogen, oxygen and other chemical resources. Further prospecting missions, including PROSPECT-Luna-27 are required to better understand the distribution and utility of these volatile deposits.
To implement this mission ESA intends to procure mission-enabling services from the commercial sector. Such services may include payload delivery, communication, and operations services. Through this approach ESA will both leverage on and further nurture existing commercial initiatives which may find widespread applications in a future lunar exploration scenario.