Passage 1 is adapted from Michael Slezak, “Space mining ：the Next Gold Rush?” ○C 2013 by New Scientist.
Passage 2 is from the editors of New Scientist, “Taming the Final Frontier.” ○C2013 by New Scientist.
Follow the money and you will end up in space. That’s the message from a first-of-its-kind
forum on mining beyond Earth.
Convened in Sydney by the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research, the event brought together mining companies, robotics experts, lunar scientists, and government agencies that are all working to make space mining a reality.The forum comes hot on the heels of the 2012 unveiling of two private asteroid-mining firms.Planetary Resources of Washington says it will launch its first prospecting telescopes in two years,while Deep Space Industries of Virginia hopes to be harvesting metals from asteroids by 2020.
Another commercial venture that sprung up in 2012, Golden Spike of Colorado, will be offering trips to the moon, including to potential lunar miners.Within a few decades, these firms may be meeting earthly demands for precious metals,such as platinum and gold, and the rare earth elements vital for personal electronics, such as yttrium and lanthanum. But like the Gold rush pioneers who transformed the Western United States, the first space miners won’t just enrich themselves. They also hope to build an off-planet economy free of any bonds with Earth, in which the materials extracted and processed from the moon and asteroids are delivered for space-based projects.
In this scenario, water mined fro other worlds could become the most desired commodity.
“In the desert, what’s worth more: a kilogram of gold or a kilogram of water?” asks Kris Zacny of HoneyBee Robotics in New York. “Gold is useless. Water will let you live.”
Water ice from the moon ‘s poles could be sent to astronauts on the International Space Station for drinking or as a radiation shield. Splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen makes spacecraft fuel, so ice-rich asteroids could become interplanetary refueling stations.Companies are eyeing the iron, silicon, and aluminium in lunar soil and asteroids, which could be used in 3D printers to make spare parts or machinery. Others want to turn space dirt into concrete for landing pads, shelters, and roads.