Koyal Group InfoMag - Asteroid mining could be useful to space travel
Earth is more than just our home planet — it's is a giant spaceship with a finite amount of materials. Strain on Earth's resources grows in proportion to the human population, and the planet is already running out of important materials such as the rare earth metals that make our electronics work. However, some University researchers are embarking on an effort to lessen the stress on the mother ship: the endeavor of asteroid mining.
Asteroid mining refers to a future practice in which humans could prospect, corral and mine asteroids — flying chunks of rock in space — for useful materials such as water, iron, platinum and rare earth metals. The materials could be used for many different economic and welfare purposes.
NASA’s 2014 budget proposal contains the Asteroid Initiative, which provides a model of what asteroid mining would look like. The first step of the initiative would be prospecting, or examining an asteroid to determine what elements it contains. The second step would be redirection, or capturing the asteroid to bring it under control and moving it to a safe place for mining, such as the Moon’s orbit. The third and final step would be the mining itself, either manned or unmanned.
One purpose of asteroid mining would be to utilize materials in space exploration. Engineering Prof. Alec Gallimore said asteroid mining would be a valuable contribution to expanded space programs.