If you’ve heard the news that many scientists from across the world have discussed the possibilities of mining in space for resources, you’ve probably been pretty excited. Mining on the moon and other planets could help to bring valuable and highly needed resources to our world.
But before you get too excited and think that all of our planet’s resource problems will be solved, make sure you understand the story first. It’s true; space mining within the next few decades is looking like it is going to become a very realistic opportunity. Plans are already being made and discussed to make space mining a reality within the next 20 years or so. Phil Metzger of NASA has said that “Space Commerce is now exploding as visionaries see that this is possible today. The benefits are almost impossible to imagine.”
But even though many people have gotten very excited about this possibility, there are still a lot of wrinkles that need to be ironed out before they will be able to make it happen.
Here are four potential problems with space mining:
Substantial expenses are the first major problem associated with the possibility of space mining. Scientists believe that they can make space mining a reality… but it is going to be extremely expensive to do so.
There are several mining companies have been involved in creating robots that can be used for these space mining projects. These robots and rail systems are going to play a huge part in space mining. And they come with no small price tag. You see, these machines will need to be made of the right materials and substantial enough to be used in space, and that is very expensive. On top of that, it costs $100,000 per kilogram to be able to transport these types of machinery into space.
So yes, it’s safe to say that cost is a possible deterrent from the space mining project.
As they’ve run different tests on Mars, they had 14-minute delays in communication. Because of the difficulty of being able to communicate over these vast distances, communication abilities is another problem that scientists are working to overcome.
Other logistical issues could stand in the way of space mining. Mars is one of the main planets that scientists are considering space mining on. But Mars has 38% the gravity of Earth. On top of that, Mars’ atmosphere is less than 1% of the thickness of Earth’s. That creates freezing temperatures, as well as radiation exposure on that planet. So, of course, these are things that scientists are working to discuss and work through.
Lastly, there are specific issues with the politics involved in these space mining projects. And these things will need to be figured out before anyone can move forward at all. To start out with, to help fund the research of this space mining project, private firms have been brought in to help develop the technologies needed to make this project a reality. Because of this, some people are assuming that there are conflicts of interest associated with this project.
But that isn’t nearly the most serious political problem that could be halting this space mining project. The biggest issue is the question of who owns the rights to the resources in space. Currently, there is a treaty in place called the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. This agreement states that “the Moon and other celestial bodies are used exclusively for peaceful purposes and activities shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries.” So, all the main countries would need to agree that this space mining project is beneficial to all countries of the world. Because of this treaty, not one country on their own has the legal right or ability to move forward with a project like this without the consent and cooperation of the other countries involved.