(CNN) - The European Space Agency announced a plan to begin mining the moon for natural resources by 2025, even as NASA works towards a similar goal.
The agency announced Monday a 1-year-contract with European aerospace company ArianeGroup to explore the possibilities of mining moon dust, or regolith, from which water and oxygen can be extracted.
Using these natural resources could make it easier for humans to stay on the moon for extended periods of time. It could also help produce rocket fuel, potentially allowing expeditions to travel farther into space.
"The use of space resources could be a key to sustainable lunar exploration," said David Parker, ESA Director of Human and Robotic Exploration, in a statement.
The mission, which is now in the research phase, would be a collaboration between aerospace scientists and technicians in France, Germany and Belgium.
Meanwhile, NASA has similar plans to return to the moon in a sustainable way. They want to begin surface missions using robots as early as 2020.
The goal would be to work toward “a sustained human presence” and could lead to the usage of lunar oxygen and hydrogen.
NASA is working with countries such as Israel and China on the project. The hope is to “enable human expansion across the solar system and bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.”