Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Mining Minerals in Space

Delphotostock

Credit: Delphotostock

By Serkan Saydam

Space is a vast source of valuable minerals that could soon propel an extraterrestrial mining industry that underpins a colony on Mars.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Mineral resources on the Earth have been exploited for the past 7000 years and have contributed to social and economic prosperity. Wherever there are valuable minerals, people will arrive to mine them – even if they must combat extreme conditions and take excessive risks.

The motivation for off-Earth mining is clear: an abundance of valuable resources that can feed our technologically driven society, the necessity of discovering new places that our society can colonise, and the development of new technologies and processes to enable these missions will create spin-off technologies that can be used in our terrestrial operations.

In the near future, commercial opportunities will include the mining of asteroids, comets, the Moon, Mars and Mars’ moons, which represent the most distant supplies of wealth that humankind has ever considered recovering. Obtaining off-Earth resources also has a second, almost priceless sustainable value – they can be recovered without disturbing the Earth.

In the past couple of years, private corporations have shown interest in conducting the direct commercial exploration of minerals on planetary bodies. These companies have aimed to extract minerals mainly from asteroids and the Moon. The first target minerals are water, platinum-group metals and some volatile products such as oxygen, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphate....

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.