We’ve all heard about how technology is transforming mining. We also know that technology for space exploration is getting more and more advanced. But what, exactly, do the two have to do with one another?
Mining in space isn’t the only possibility. Mining will also take us to space.
For space exploration
It might seem bizarre that mining will take – and is taking – us to space. However, it’s a very real opportunity. Metals and minerals are integral to space exploration. A myriad of minerals are used in space exploration, specifically in spacecrafts.
Aluminium is one of the primary materials used in space travel. The metals used in spacecrafts are incredibly important because they must be resistant to heat and damage in extreme conditions.
Carbon-carbon composites are resistant to extreme heat and can form the integral parts (nose, wings, tails) of the spacecraft. Together, these metals form the heat-resistant foundations of our spaceships. And they’re all mined right down here on Earth.
However, there is potential for certain minerals to create better, cheaper and more efficient spaceships. If space exploration is going to progress, they’ll be integral to our future. Amorphous metal (or metallic glass) is a promising candidate for creating better, lighter and stronger spaceships.
Elon Musk claimed in 2016 to be building SpaceX’s ambitious spaceship out of carbon fibre, which is incredibly lightweight. Since then, he has changed to stainless steel, which theoretically would work better in high temperature environments despite being heavier. While carbon fibre was an interesting choice, stainless steel is also relatively unused in space travel, making it an innovative option.
Space exploration for mining
This probably isn’t the first you have heard about mining in space. Certainly, it’s a contentious topic – and a complicated one. Earth resources are becoming increasingly scarce. Asteroid mining could very well be the future of resource mining. Not only asteroid mining, however; mining other planets, such as Mars, is also a viable alternative.
However, there are a couple of challenges:
- Poor funding. Travelling to space purely for the purpose of mining is costly and currently economically inviable.
- Difficulties with mineral detection/mining.
These challenges may be necessary to overcome, despite their setbacks, as our access to minerals on Earth becomes increasingly reduced. Despite the fact that travel to space is a factor, mining asteroids could still be more environmentally viable than mining on Earth.
If we do get to the point of mining in space, blockchain, AI, automation and even quantum computing could be a factor in its success.
NASA gave a $330,000 grant in 2017 for the creation of a blockchain-based spacecraft system. Blockchain’s security and decentralised nature could make powerful strides towards creating a comprehensive spaceship. This would require it incorporating other technologies, too.
Automation is already used in space travel, as well as on the International Space Station. AI, however, could be implemented to predict dangerous space conditions, evaluate possible threats and improve over a period of time.
Mining and space have a lot more in common than you might think. Over time, the two could have a relationship that benefits the other, and brings success into space and land exploration.