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.
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

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs