The mining of space is already happening in small but interesting ways.
Mining space is already happening. The first commercial space mining company was launched in 2015, called Deep Space Industries. They’re building a small spacecraft called Prospector-X which will test the technology needed for mining asteroids. The spacecraft will be launched into low Earth orbit (LEO) by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and then it will head out toward the moon where it can mine some lunar soil samples to bring back to Earth for analysis.
Deep Space Industries’ plan is to build larger spacecrafts that will harvest metals from asteroids such as platinum, gold and other rare earth elements used in everything from smartphones to medical equipment such as MRI scanners.
Space mining has some hurdles, but there are labs dedicated to building the technology necessary for it.
While the technology for space mining is still in development, there are labs dedicated to building it. For example, Planetary Resources has a lab that’s working on developing three-dimensional printers for use in asteroid mining. The company also has an Earth-based operation called Ceres that’s working on robotic spacecraft and robotics technology with an eye toward space defense. There are other groups working on similar technologies:
Another example of a lab working toward these goals is NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI), which focuses specifically on technologies related to robotic exploration of asteroids and other objects within our solar system.
There’s a lot that we can get from mining our own solar system.
In the future, we will be able to mine our own solar system for the following:
Metals and water
Helium-3 (for nuclear fusion)
Rare earth elements
The benefits of domestic space mining are many.
The benefits of domestic space mining are many. For example, it could supply the world with energy, minerals, water and fuel to meet its needs without depending on foreign sources. It could also provide food for astronauts in deep-space missions such as a trip to Mars or even more distant destinations like Alpha Centauri or Proxima Centauri. The resources mined from asteroids will also be essential for constructing habitats on those asteroids so they can be used as refueling stations for long voyages across our solar system and beyond.
Moreover, the US government has already recognized the importance of domestic space mining by funding private companies with millions of dollars in grants to conduct research into this field: Planetary Resources received $1 million from NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program; Deep Space Industries received $100 million from Google; and Planetary Ventures Incorporated (a partnership between Virgin Galactic and Qualcomm) received $1 billion in federal funds through NASA’s Lunar CATALYST initiative.
Space minerals could give us access to new metals to build with, including ceramics and even glass.
If you were to ask the average person, they’d likely tell you that “space mining” is nothing more than a Hollywood trope. But this isn’t true at all—and in fact, there’s currently no other way to access these materials. Space minerals could give us access to new metals to build with, including ceramics and even glass. These new materials will be useful for both building and manufacturing on Earth while also helping us achieve our goals in space exploration and energy storage. In medicine, they can be used for everything from pharmaceuticals to medical devices like pacemakers or joint replacements.
Minerals may have been brought to Earth by meteorites.
Minerals may have been brought to Earth by meteorites. The composition of some meteorites is similar to the composition of Earth’s crust, mantle and core. This suggests that some material from outer space was incorporated into these planets when they were forming.
There are some outstanding questions about space mining that we still need to ask and answer.
There are some outstanding questions about space mining that we still need to ask and answer. How will space mining affect the environment? How will it affect the economy? What are the legal issues involved? How will space mining affect the people who are already living in space?
It’s clear that space holds a great deal of resources, and humanity’s need for those resources isn’t going away.
To be clear: space is not the answer to all our problems. For example, it does not hold enough water to solve Earth’s growing thirst for drinking water. And most of us won’t be able to live in space anytime soon (although some people do). But there is enough metal in asteroids to build millions upon millions of houses on Earth and even more spacecraft that could travel throughout our solar system—and beyond—to help humans explore and colonize other worlds. It could also help us build new tools and technologies here at home so we can live better lives right here on Earth today, tomorrow, and far into the future!