Officials Talk In-Space Resources in Luxembourg

An illustration of a proposed lunar mining mission. Credits: Janet Hill, Creative Studios, The Center for Faculty Leadership and Development, UTEP

Government officials, industry employees, and researchers working toward a mining economy in space gathered last week in Luxembourg to discuss what lessons space miners could learn from their Earth-bound counterparts—and who should oversee the nascent industry in orbit. 

The annual Luxembourg Space Resources Week is organized by the European Space Resources Innovation Centre (ESRIC), which was founded in 2020 by ESA, the Luxembourg Space Agency, and the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, all of which co-hosted this year’s conference.

Who is in charge?

Both government space programs and commercial ventures are pursuing in-situ resource utilization (ISRU). As the international space resources community grows, 

ESRIC’s Director Kathryn Hadler wants her institution to become the international “center of expertise of in-situ resource utilization.”

In the US, NASA’s ISRU System Capability Lead, Gerald Sanders, said the agency is getting ready to release an industry overview identifying technology gaps in the supply chain. He highlighted the agency’s “big emphasis on commercial scale operations.” 

Building the industry: ESRIC announced the establishment of a Lunar Space Resources Accelerator, to be launched before the end of 2023. ESRIC will provide funds to entrepreneurs who can match its contribution with self-funding—for example, by raising capital from VCs.

Lessons from Earth

Interest in a prospective ISRU industry is not confined to academia and government agencies. Legacy mining companies are starting to take note, and can claim the advantage of centuries of experience.

Jeff Plate, VP of mineral economics and business development at mining consultancy Watts, Griffis and McOuat Ltd., stressed the need to adapt terrestrial reconnaissance and prospecting technologies to lunar exploration. Using artificial intelligence, WGM in cooperation with Lunar Station, a new space company that recently emerged from stealth after seven years, has

developed probability maps of water ice distribution at the lunar south pole. With the right funding in place, Plate, who is also the founder and CEO of Interstellar Mining, said industrial scale ice mining on the Moon could start within five years.

Gray gold

Lunar regolith is at the center of many mining projects on the Moon. The material contains water, oxygen, and metals, including iron, aluminum, and the composite ore ilmenite. Technologies are being developed to make regolith useful to humans–in space and on earth.

Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Colorado School of Mines’ Space Resources Program, presented new technologies at the conference to convert regolith into a usable form, including Molten Regolith Extractors used to separate metals and Sole Oxide Electrolysis to break up the material’s watery components into hydrogen and oxygen–crucial resources for a long-term human presence on the Moon.

Related Stories

Russia’s Luna-25 Hard Lands on the Moon

The lunar surface has claimed another victim.  Russia’s Luna-25 crash-landed on the Moon this weekend after the spacecraft fired its engines in an attempt to maneuver into its pre-landing orbit. The failed mission is a blow to the Russian space program, which hoped for a triumphant return to the lunar surface after a 47-year absence. […]


Moon History For Sale At Sotheby’s Space Auction

Space enthusiasts bought a slice of history Thursday, shelling out a combined ~$680,000 at Sotheby’s annual space exploration auction. The online auction sold more than 60 pieces of historical memorabilia, signed photos, and items that had flown to space. Big ticket: The top seller was an Apollo 13 flight plan signed and inscribed by capsule […]


NASA Funds 11 Next-Gen Space Projects

NASA awarded 11 companies a combined $150M to support a next-gen lunar base camp and broader space exploration tech, the agency announced yesterday.  The grants, which were awarded under NASA’s Tipping Point program, fund an array of sci-fi-like projects including lunar nuclear fuel, in-situ resource utilization, LiDAR navigation, inflatable heat shielding, and lunar power transmission. […]


Three Lunar Landers Will Head to the Moon this Summer

54 years have passed since Armstrong took that iconic step on the Moon, marking an apex in the Apollo program and lunar exploration more broadly. Starting in 1977, however, a 36-year quiet period ensued, with zero lunar landing attempts until 2013, and only six since then.  In a sign that the lunar lull is coming […]