Geologists Have Begun Mapping Space To Mine For Water, Minerals, and Rare Metals

Wednesday, 05 September 2018 - 10:43AM
Wednesday, 05 September 2018 - 10:43AM
Geologists Have Begun Mapping Space To Mine For Water, Minerals, and Rare Metals
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Image Credit: Pixabay composite
When most people think of mining, they think of coal, diamonds, gold, and other terrestrial materials that are either valuable because they are rare or because they are useful as fuels to power our lives. There's more to mining than just digging a hole in the ground and sifting through the dirt until you find something worthwhile, however: you need experts to find the resources and to develop a smart and efficient plan for getting to them. Humanity has done quite a bit of digging over the past centuries, but because resources are finite here on Earth, the future will require a different approach.

According to Forbes, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) recently turned its attention to the stars and began a large scale mapping project to locate water, space minerals, and metals on other planets, asteroids, and moons. At the Colorado School of Mines this past June, geologists met to discuss the value of space mining and to consider the steps needed to make it work. "The USGS has been paying steadily increasing attention to the issue of space resources for the last several years," USGS Astrogeology Science Center research geologist Laszlo Kestay told Space.com. Kestay added that while there is currently no funding in place for a thorough assessment of space resources, the team is "anticipating that the USGS may be directed to do so soon, and we are taking a number of steps to be prepared for that possibility." 

A primary focus of USGS' mapping efforts involves cosmic bodies that are relatively close to Earth, for logistical reasons. "The space-resources community will benefit greatly from working together with the USGS to assess the location and value of minerals, energy and water on the moon, Mars and asteroids," said Colorado School of Mines' Center for Space Resources director, Angel Abbud-Madrid. Not only would it be beneficial for future colonies on those nearby rocks, their proximity to Earth could mean that resources found there could be shipped back for use at home. New USGS director, Jim Reilly, knows a thing or two about the important link between Earth and space as a former astronaut with a 13-year NASA career and three space shuttle missions under his belt. He and the rest of the survey understand that there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of gaps in knowledge that have to be filled before even a single mine can be established in space, but it sounds like they are all committed to reaching that major milestone.

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