In confirming the news recently, the Ariane Group said the goal would be to extract water and oxygen from regolith ore, which could allow an independent human presence on the Moon in the future and also produce the fuel needed for more exploratory missions.
The ArianeGroup with Arianespace has joined PTS beginner German scientists in the project to provide a lunar lander; The Belgium Space Applications Services will also be involved as suppliers of the ground control facilities, communications and associated service operations.
"This 100% innovative European consortium could thus provide services for the entire mission, from launching and transferring the Moon to landing on the Moon and communicating on the surface of the Moon the loads required for the mission," ArianeGroup said.
Taking the trip, including carrying the necessary equipment, would be Ariane 64, the four-reinforced version of Ariane 6. ArianeGroup CEO Andre-Hubert Roussel said he has been working on the logistics of the entire mission for some time.
"It's also an opportunity to recall the Ariane 64's ability to perform lunar missions to its institutional customers, with cargo capacity of up to 8.5 tonnes," he said.
"This year, marking the 50th anniversary of man's first steps on the moon, ArianeGroup will thus support all current and future European projects, in line with its mission to ensure independent and sovereign access to space for Europe."
As noted by ESA director, Human Exploration and Robotics, David Parker, the use of space resources may be critical to sustainable lunar exploration.
"This study is part of ESA's comprehensive plan to make Europe a partner in global exploration over the next decade – a plan we will present to our ministers for decision later this year at the Space19 + conference."
PTScientists spokesman Andreas Schepers said Space News that the partnership with ArianeGroup and the Space Applications Services perfectly positions it to win the mission contract. Meanwhile, he added, the probe is still in development – and will probably be next year before flying.
"We are progressing as fast as we can, but with the strict objective of achieving mission success," he said. "We [will] launch not before the first quarter of 2020. "