Free Newsletters - Space - Defense - Environment - Energy - Solar - Nuclear
..
. Space Travel News .




SPACE TRAVEL
Miners shoot for the stars in tech race
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) March 26, 2013


A self-sustaining mechanised colony that mines and exports resources from the Moon could be a reality within a generation, helping to meet demand for materials key to innovation on Earth.

That was the view of a recent gathering in Sydney aimed at bringing together some of the top minds in space exploration with firms hoping to cash in on the final frontier of mining: astronomical bodies.

Australia does not have a space agency, but it is home to some of the world's largest mining companies and at the edge of technological advances in the industry, making it a natural fit for what was billed as the world's first Off-Earth Mining Forum.

"There's nothing really science-fiction about any of this," explained Andrew Dempster, from the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research.

"It's about joining the dots, and I think we've got to the point where people are saying 'yeah, we can do this'".

In some ways the trail has been forged; man has landed six times on the Moon and is in the process of demonstrating that drilling -- albeit in small quantities -- is possible on Mars with NASA's rovers.

Talks at last month's two-day conference ranged across a breadth of topics from mine automation in Australia and Antarctic testing of drills for use on Mars to converting lunar rocks to waterless cement and fuel.

There is real motivation to shoot skyward, according to the researchers; rare earth minerals vital to everything from wind turbines and hybrid cars to cruise missiles and the ubiquitous smartphone are thought to be abundant.

Vast troves of hydrogen that could be used for fuel are also likely, opening the door to ever-further exploration and exploitation.

NASA's Phil Metzger has mapped a business case for space mining showing that a self-sustaining robot mining colony could be established on the Moon in 20 years with as little as 12 metric tonnes of equipment shipped.

Metzger says that within another 30 years, the industrial capacity of space could be a staggering one billion times that of the United States.

"It's getting very exciting in this field, we are becoming very convinced that the technologies are here now so we can access the billion-fold resources of the solar system," Metzger said.

"We don't have a resource problem in this vast system, we have an imagination problem."

Once established on the Moon, Metzger said the space industry could push even further afield, into the asteroid belt and beyond.

"Space commerce is now exploding as visionaries see that this is possible today," he said. "The benefits are almost impossible to imagine."

It's not a venture without challenges; full automation will be required to overcome the tyranny of communicating over vast distances, while energy and even building materials will have to be sourced locally.

Resource giant Rio Tinto is moving towards remote-controlled extraction with its so-called "Mine of the Future" programme -- several companies involved in developing its robots and automated truck and rail systems gave presentations to the conference.

But such hefty machines may be inappropriate for space, with the costs for rocketing objects into orbit remaining prohibitive at about $100,000 per kilogram.

This is where the work of NASA and other space agencies comes in, developing and licensing state-of-the-art technologies for their missions and collecting royalties from private firms who repurpose them for commercial ends.

Rene Fradet, deputy director of engineering at NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover project, said he believed science and industry went "hand in hand", rejecting the notion that there was a conflict of interest.

"We're coming at it strictly from the scientific understanding of planets and bodies and so forth, but we're also addressing and solving a lot of issues that the community will have to face," Fradet told AFP.

Fradet offered a detailed insight into the challenges of operating on Mars, where there is 38 percent the gravity of Earth and its atmosphere is less than one percent the thickness, meaning extreme cold and exposure to radiation.

Communication was delayed by an average of 14 minutes.

Practicalities aside, there are also bigger questions at stake, such as who owns the resources of space and how commercial activities there can be governed.

More than 100 countries, including all the major space powers, have ratified the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which holds signatory nations responsible for activities in space, including those by private firms, but is yet to be tested.

It mandates that the Moon and other celestial bodies be used "exclusively for peaceful purposes" and activities "shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries", raising questions of how mining would fit.

"We're talking about things probably 20-30 years from now, but I think it's a good time to engage in these things and say 'ok where do we want to go, what are some of the milestones?" said Fradet.

"I think it's a good thing to start playing out these scenarios to see what makes sense and where the future leads and so forth. That's a big part of the challenge."

.


Related Links
Space Tourism, Space Transport and Space Exploration News






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





SPACE TRAVEL
The Future of Exploration Starts With 3-D Printing
Huntsville AL (SPX) Mar 26, 2013
The latest in cutting-edge manufacturing is already making a significant impact in the future of space exploration. Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., the prime contractor for the J-2X engine, recently used an advanced 3-D printing process called Selective Laser Melting, or SLM, to create an exhaust port cover for the engine. SLM uses lasers to fuse metal dust into a spec ... read more


SPACE TRAVEL
When quality counts: Arianespace reaffirms its North American market presence

SpaceX capsule returns after ISS resupply mission

SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft Carrying NASA Cargo Ready for Return to Earth

Dragon capsule to spend extra day in space

SPACE TRAVEL
Opportunity Heads to Matijevic Hill

Curiosity Resumes Science Investigations

Digging for hidden treasure on Mars

Sun in the Way Will Affect Mars Missions in April

SPACE TRAVEL
NASA's LRO Sees GRAIL's Explosive Farewell

Amazon's Bezos recovers Apollo 11 engines

Leaping Lunar Dust

Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project Seeks Public Support To Retrieve Apollo Era Moon Images

SPACE TRAVEL
'Vulcan' wins Pluto moon name vote

Public to vote on names for Pluto moons

The PI's Perspective: The Seven-Year Itch

New Horizons Gets a New Year's Workout

SPACE TRAVEL
The Great Exoplanet Debate

Astronomers Detect Water in Atmosphere of Distant Planet

Distant planetary system is a super-sized solar system

Water signature in distant planet shows clues to its formation

SPACE TRAVEL
SpaceX's Merlin 1D Engine Achieves Flight Qualification

Here We Go Again, Another Air-Launch Idea

Moog Conducts More Than 7,900 Hot Fire Tests on 400 Engines in 2012

Russia Delays New Soyuz Launch

SPACE TRAVEL
China's Next Women Astronauts

Shenzhou 10 - Next Stop: Jiuquan

China's fourth space launch center to be in use in two years

China to launch new manned spacecraft

SPACE TRAVEL
NASA Scientists Find Moon, Asteroids Share History

Goldstone Radar Snags Images of Asteroid 2013 ET

Sunset Comet

Long Awaited, Comet PanSTARRS Now Glows in the Twilight




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement