Man will soon mine outer space

Like Earth, planetary bodies such as the Moon, Mars, asteroids and comets contain substantial reserves of valuable resources. It has attracted the attention of both researchers and industry, with the hope of mining them one day to support the space economy.

But setting up any kind of off-earth mining industry would be no small feat. Let’s see what we are up against.

in-situ resource utilization

When you think of off-Earth mining, you can imagine extracting material from various bodies in space and bringing them back to Earth. But this is unlikely to be the first commercially viable example.

If we want to establish a permanent human presence on the Moon, like NASA has proposed, we will need to re-supply the astronauts who live there. Resources like water can only be recycled up to a limit.

Also, the resources to launch from Earth are extremely expensive. As of 2018, it cost roughly $2,720 To launch a kilogram of material into low Earth orbit via SpaceX’s Falcon 9, and more to launch it higher or to the Moon. It is likely that the material mined in space will be used in space, to help save on these costs.

Harvesting material required on site is called “in-situ resource utilization”. This can include anything from mining ice to collecting soil to build a structure. NASA is currently exploring the possibility of building buildings on the Moon 3d printing,

Mining in space could also transform satellite management. The current practice is to de-orbit satellites after 10-20 years when they run out of fuel. A major goal of space companies like Orbit Fab is to design a type of satellite that can be fueled Using propellant collected in space.

A satellite in space orbits the Earth (visible in the background)
A complete overhaul of how satellites are designed will be difficult to achieve. But doing so in the long run could revolutionize the industry. Shutterstock

Even for low-Earth orbit satellites, the energy required to reach them from the Moon is less than the energy required to reach them from Earth.

What resources are there?

When it comes to mining opportunities outside Earth, there are few resources that are both abundant and valuable. Some asteroids include Large quantities of iron, nickel, gold and platinum group metals, which can be used for manufacturing and electronics.

Lunar Regolith (rock and soil) Helium-3. It happens, which could become a valuable resource in the future if nuclear fusion becomes viable and widespread. The British company Metallysis has developed a process that Extract Oxygen from Lunar Regolith,

there is snow hope of existence On the surface of the Moon, in permanently shadowed craters near its poles. We also think that there is ice under the surface of Mars, asteroids and comets. It can be used to support life, or can be broken down into oxygen and hydrogen and used as a propellant.

How will we mine in space?

My (Michael’s) PhD thesis involved testing how exploration technology would work moon and mars, Our other work includes economic modeling ice mining on marsand on computer modeling stability of tunnels On the moon

Some proposals for off-Earth mining are similar to mining on Earth. For example, we can refer to the lunar regolith as a . can mine with bucket-wheel excavatorOr an asteroid of mine a . is using tunnel boring machine,

A large bucket-wheel excavator being used in a coal mine.
Bucket-wheel excavators are large machines used in surface mining, including coal mining, to allow for continuous excavation. Shutterstock

Other propositions are more unfamiliar – such as a . to use vacuum machine To pull the regolith up to a tube (which has seen limited use in excavations on Earth).

Researchers from the University of New South Wales Sydney and the Australian National University proposed using biomining, In it, bacteria introduced to an asteroid will consume certain minerals and produce a gas, which can then be harvested and collected by a probe.

great challenges remain

UNSW’s . our work in Australian Center for Space Engineering Research The space resource industry involves finding ways to reduce risk. Needless to say, there are many technical and economic challenges.

The same launch costs for which many people are eager to start off-Earth mining also mean that getting mining equipment into space is expensive. Mining operations need to be as light as possible in order to be cost-effective (or feasible).

Furthermore, the further an object is from Earth, the longer it takes to reach it. There is a delay of up to 40 minutes for the Mars rover to send commands and ascertain whether it was successful.

The Moon has only a 2.7-second delay for communication, and may be easier to mine from afar. Near-Earth objects also have orbits similar to those of Earth, and sometimes pass the earth at a distance compared to the Moon. They are a perfect candidate for me as they require very little energy to reach and return.

Given the additional challenges of sending humans into space – such as the need for life support, radiation avoidance, and additional launch costs – off-Earth mining will need to be mostly automated, or remotely controlled.

However, even mining systems on Earth are not fully automated yet. Robotics have to be improved before asteroids can be mined.

While the spacecraft has landed on asteroids several times and even obtained samples – which were returned during Hayabusa 1 and 2 to Woomera, South Australia. Missions – Our overall success rate of landing on asteroids and comets is low.

In 2014, the Philae lander was sent to Comet 67P/Churyumov/Gerasimenko which famously fell in the abyss During an unsuccessful landing attempt.

Philae lander on comet's surface
The European Space Agency’s Philae lander that came with the Rosetta spacecraft bounced back twice before settling into an awkward position inside the abyss. wiki commons, CC BY

There are environmental considerations as well. Mining in space may help reduce Quantity of Mining need on earth. But this happens when off-Earth mining results in less, and no more, rocket launches, or if resources are returned and used on Earth.

Although gathering resources in space may mean not having to launch them from Earth, as the space economy grows, more launches may inevitably take place.

Then the question is, will the proposed mining techniques even work? space environment, Different planetary bodies have different atmospheres (or none), gravity, geology, and electrostatic environments (for example, they may have electrically charged soils) particles from the sun,

How these conditions will affect off-Earth operations is still largely unknown.

but work is in progress

Although it’s still early days, several companies are currently developing the technology for off-Earth mining, space resource exploration, and other uses in space.

Canadian space mining corporation It is developing the infrastructure needed to support life in space, including oxygen generators and other machinery.

US based company offworld is developing industrial robots for operations on Earth, the Moon, asteroids and Mars. And this asteroid mining corporation The space is also working to establish a market for resources.

This article, by Michael Delo-Ecovo, UNSW Sydney And Serkan Saidam, UNSW Sydney, is republished from Conversation Under Creative Commons license. read the original article,

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