The European Space Agency has given a group a new contract to develop plans for a moon base that could be used to win the race for moon resources.
ESA said the Ariane Group's one-year project will "examine the possibility of going to the Moon before 2025 and starting to work there".
The one-year contract aims to eventually mine regolith on the moon's surface, and could claim to billions of pounds worth of minerals.
The space agency said: "As ESA and other agencies prepare to send humans back to the moon – in-situ resource utilization is seen as key to sustainability, and a stepping stone in humanity's adventure to Mars and farther into the Solar System.
"In the longer term, resources in space may even be used on Earth."
ESA explained: "Regolith is an ore from which it is possible to extract water and oxygen, thus enabling an independent human presence on the moon to be envisaged, capable of producing the fuel needed for more distant exploratory missions."
Ariane is hoping Ariane 64, the 4-booster version of Ariane 6, would carry out the project.
In the longer term, resources in space may even be used on Earth.
European Space Agency
Dr David Parker; Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA added: "The use of space resources could be a key to sustainable lunar exploration and this study is part of ESA's comprehensive plan to make Europe a partner in the global exploration in the next decade.
"A plan we will put our ministers for decision this year at the Space19 + Conference."
The mission will pit Europe against the US, Russia and China, all of whom are developing moon missions, reported Daily Mail.
ESA plans to work with nine private firms in order to develop robotic landers and systems to mine the natural resources on the moon.
This will then advance technology for future manned missions, and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine vowed to have a manned lunar base within the next ten years.
The ArianeGroup also works with German start-u group PTScientists, which will provide the lunar lander, and a Belgian SME, Space Applications Services, which will provide ground control facilities, the communications and the associated service operations.
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André-Hubert Roussel, CEO of ArianeGroup said: "This first contract – symbolically announced on the day of a lunar eclipse – is a milestone for ArianeGroup, which has for a long time been working on technological proposals for space logistics servicing.
"It is also an opportunity to recall the ability of Ariane 64 to carry out Moon missions for its institutional customers, with a payload capacity of up to 8.5 metric tons."
The agency announced that ESA's Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany, is currently being built and when done, it will serve as the three-part moon analog environment on Earth.
The new facility will be known as Luna, and will take up 1,000 square meters at the Astronaut Center.
ESA project manager for strategic planning and future development, Andreas Diekmann, said: The moon is a major focus for ESA and the next step for human exploration.
"Developed in partnership with DLR, Luna will help us build our expertise, prepare for missions to the moon and provide a platform for researchers across Europe to test technology and procedures."
Researchers are currently creating a lunar dust alternative from volcanic powder produced by eruptions at the nearby Eifel volcanic region 45 million years ago.
The Moon habitat, called FlexHab (Future Lunar Exploration Habitat), is expected to be functioning at the end of this year.
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Once finished, astronauts will live and work there, in a space roughly the size of a parcel container.
ESA said: "During the lunar day, energy from the sun will be used directly via photovoltaic panels, but it will also be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
"These two elements will then be stored separately before being recombined in a two-week-long lunar nights."