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What is space mining?

asked 2016-05-05 17:56:31 -0600

Rob Mueller gravatar image

updated 2016-05-05 17:57:43 -0600

What can be mined in space?

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answered 2016-05-07 08:04:21 -0600

Spacerobots gravatar image

updated 2016-05-07 08:08:32 -0600

Mining is the extraction of resources from geological sites. So space mining is the extraction of resources from extraterrestrial bodies, e.g. the Moon and asteroids. Mining is a several step process beginning with prospecting, followed by exploratory excavation, bulk extraction, processing, transportation, etc. all of these steps must be followed for space mining as well (although the technologies would be very different from terrestrial mining!) You could think of the drilling and chemical analysis being done by the Mars Science Laboratory "Curiosity" as the first example of "space prospecting": https://msl-scicorner.jpl.n...

It is not clear that anything mined off-Earth would be of great value if returned to Earth. On the other hand, off-Earth mining products could be highly valuable if used in space--because they avoided the cost of launching them from Earth. Three examples of potentially valuable space mining products: water ice, which can be turned into hydrogen and oxygen via electrolysis, and used for propellant or for breathing; metals from nickel-iron asteroids; and regolith, "moon dirt," which could be sintered into structural members.

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Asked: 2016-05-05 17:56:31 -0600

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Last updated: May 07 '16