News / Asia

Australian Summit Ponders Mining in Space

This view shows the patch of veined, flat-lying rock selected as the first drilling site for NASA's Mars rover Curiosity. (Courtesy: NASA)
This view shows the patch of veined, flat-lying rock selected as the first drilling site for NASA's Mars rover Curiosity. (Courtesy: NASA)
Phil Mercer
Academics, miners and space industrialists are gathering in Sydney Wednesday to discuss the possibilities and logistics of mining other planets.  Scientists argue that they will eventually overcome the huge expenses and technical difficulties of extracting minerals from asteroids, and even the Moon or Mars.  

Could a future mining boom be literally out of this world?  That is the question posed by scientists meeting in Sydney, who have their sights firmly set on exploring space for new riches.  Asteroids could yield platinum and diamonds, while the moon contains "rare-earth" minerals used to make computers, missiles and wind turbines, which are in increasingly short supply here on Earth.   

As it stands, these bold visions are not economically viable, but researchers believe that remote-controlled mining of the Moon might only be a decade away.  In the future, other academics say that Mars could also be exploited in the search for valuable minerals.

Gordon Roesler, a space robotics specialist at the University of New South Wales, says the race to extract these hidden treasures has already begun.

“It is interesting there are two companies that have just started up, one in the U.S. and one in the U.K., and they have both said ‘We are going to mine asteroids,’" he said. "Now, we have been talking about this for decades, but why [are] these companies starting now backed by billionaires - why are they doing that? I think it is because of the progress in robotics.

Roesler says robots’ potential is demonstrated by their utility in factories, in undersea exploration as well as on Mars, where NASA’s Curiosity Rover recently deployed its drill on the Red Planet for the first time.

“Those are things that we really could not prove were going to be viable, 20 years ago," he said. "Now, they are so these companies are saying 'well, we will make a long-term play’.”      

René Fradet, the deputy director of engineering & science directorate at the U.S.  Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was one of the keynote speakers at the conference at the University of New South Wales.  He says the Mars Rover’s success will boost the exploration of space.

At the center of this image from NASA's Curiosity rover is the hole in a rock called At the center of this image from NASA's Curiosity rover is the hole in a rock called "John Klein" where the rover conducted its first sample drilling on Mars.
x
At the center of this image from NASA's Curiosity rover is the hole in a rock called
At the center of this image from NASA's Curiosity rover is the hole in a rock called "John Klein" where the rover conducted its first sample drilling on Mars.
“I think Curiosity just last week, we performed our first drill, execute a hole on the surface of Mars.  So, it is kind of the first step of mining.  So, I think we can share some of the experience and lessons learned in executing those kinds of missions and give people a bit of an appreciation for what it takes to make these things happen,” he said.  

As well as the pursuit of rare minerals, celestial mining could also be the first step in the colonization of space, where water extracted from asteroids, the Moon or Mars could power spacecraft and sustain human populations.

Delegates at the Sydney conference are discussing a range of innovative technologies and new ways of thinking, both of which will be needed, along with vast amounts of money, if the mining industry is eventually to conquer space.

Curiosity explores Mars

  • This image shows the wall of a scuff mark NASA's Curiosity made in a windblown ripple of Martian sand with its wheel.
  • This image shows where NASA's Curiosity rover aimed two different instruments to study a rock known as "Jake Matijevic." (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
  • This image shows fine sand from Mars that was filtered by NASA's Curiosity rover as part of its first "decontamination" exercise, October 10, 2012.
  • The image shows the north wall and rim of Gale Crater in the distance. The image shown here has been rotated to correct for that tilt, so that the sky is up and the ground is down.
  • The scoop on NASA's Curiosity rover shows the larger soil particles that were too big to filter through a sample-processing sieve that is porous only to particles less than 150 microns across, October 10, 2012.
  • The Mars Curiosity rover's robotic arm takes aim at Mount Sharp in a mosaic that combines navigation-camera imagery from Sols 2, 12 and 14 (Aug. 8, 18 and 20). The shadow of the rover's camera mast is visible in the center foreground.
  • A penny that is used by Curiosity to calibrate its Mars Hand Lens Imager camera. The penny is covered in Martian dust, September 9, 2012.
  • This view of the lower front and underbelly of Curiosity combines nine images taken on September 9, 2012.
  • This photo, taken by the Curiosity rover, shows the layered geology of Mars.
  • This view of three of Curiosity's wheels combines two images taken on September 9, 2012.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: WILLIAM from: ARGENTINA
February 20, 2013 8:00 PM
Wow, what a amazing news on minery in the outer space!, the US mining industries will to need a launching private space program to transport crew, pasengers and tools to the moon and mars. I propose that the diverse number of private space enterprises, they might to unify themselves in a joint venture to let a private version of NASA to born, in the territory of the United States, with mult-target complementary businneses in a poblated moon human base for the exploration of mining and tourist commercial posibilities. May we imagin a series of asotiated American enterprises to minery, as a Paris Hilton s Moon Resort for tourism of millionaries in the satellite by some contracts! An Finantial investenment fund can asociate and participates in the objectives. The US private space programe may use the American New Mexico space airport to instale the private space fly control . New jobs maybe more than a thousand, caan be created in there, with earnings to the executives of the US private space prograame, more of 2000 millions dollars, and more than a such, and the government by taxes. Im so exited for this good news,that only say thaks very much God, and Americans for this blessing in the future.
In Response

by: GJ Focker from: Australia
February 22, 2013 6:51 PM
William my dear boy, your comment shows that you can NOT think, assemble a thought, spell or communicate sensibly, so please try to do none of the above. Thanks, Mr Focker.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More