Space Mining: A New Industry

Audience: Middle and High School students

By: Anand Mehta

In 1962, John F. Kennedy, former President of the United States, gave one of the most famous speeches of his presidency. He proclaimed to an audience of 40,000 people that “We choose to go to the moon,” and envisioned a world in which the United States would be the first nation to do so. Previously, the Soviet Union had launched the Sputnik satellite into the atmosphere and had launched the first man into space as well. The United States felt it necessary to begin large waves of investment into its space program. NASA was created, and the government began to incentivize students to pursue more S.T.E.M. careers, hoping that it would allow them to compete with the Soviet Union and other nations around the globe.

Even after the US successfully landed on the moon and won the Space Race, NASA continued to make innovations that would have large consumer applications and affect society greatly. Multiple other moon landings continued through the 1970s, and NASA began to experiment with more exploratory projects: the Hubble Space Telescope had the ability to capture hundreds of thousands of stars in a single image, and the Voyager satellite was sent to venture beyond the furthest objects in our solar system.

The Hubble Space Telescope, a NASA space telescope responsible for capturing thousands of images of the universe (Pixabay).

However, many have begun to yearn for space travel again, dreaming about an age in which a trip to Mars is as cheap and easy as a trip from New York to London. Although many consumers enjoy exploring the commercial aspects of space travel, businesses and investors have quickly turned their attention to space mining, a lucrative future industry in which corporations mine asteroids or planets for raw materials. Important metals, such as aluminum, nickel, iron, and even platinum and gold, could all be harvested from these celestial bodies. Access to these resources could alter the global economy, allowing various countries to develop faster and reach new levels of sustainability.

As Earth begins to lose its natural resources, many question the sustainability of current drilling and resource extraction methods. Can we continue to mine away the Earth’s core at this rate? Can we continue to drill in the ocean for oil and other materials? The answer is quickly becoming “No” as world leaders and environmental organizations pressure industries to find alternative solutions. As space technology attracts more attention among companies that want to find new ways to innovate, space mining may become a new viable industry.

There’s no doubt that space technology takes a long time to evolve. Even Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, two of the most successful people in the space industry, are only at the beginning stages with their technology—testing rockets, launching satellites, and sending probes into the upper atmosphere. The initial cost of space mining is incredibly high, but it’s important, and exciting, to continue to observe how this industry will develop in the future.


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