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 "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 "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 "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 "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

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines 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.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid