For this article, we are asking you to look to the far, far future. Mining in space isn’t something we expect to see any time soon. While some have doubts it will ever happen, many think mining in space is inevitable – it’s just a question of when and how.
How could mining in space impact the construction and engineering industry? Here are our thoughts.
Mining of Metals
Mining in space could yield valuable caches of metals like metals like gold, cobalt, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, osmium, palladium, platinum, rhenium, rhodium, ruthenium, and tungsten.
All of these metals are currently mined in Earth, but the stores are running out. By 2024, the demand for nickel could rise to 3.4 million tons. Such a large demand would surpass available supplies on Earth.
With such an abundance of metals from space, we could put more of them into developing new construction materials or equipment. New ideas for construction materials that were limited by dwindling stores of minerals on Earth could get new momentum.
Nickel, cobalt, and manganese are all metals needed for batteries to run equipment. Nickel is one of the first minerals used in batteries that experts expect will experience shortages thanks to low supply on Earth.
The influx of metals from space could finally push the construction and engineering industry to invest in renewable, electric vehicles.
Water Is Abundant in Space
Water is a surprisingly abundant resource is space. Everywhere from the Moon, Mars, and objects in the outer parts of our solar system have plenty of water – in the form of ice.
The satellites of giant plants and objects in the Kuiper Belt are mostly made of ice. Even comets have ice in their nuclei. Asteroids near Earth could have enough water to fill 320,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Some researchers have proposed the idea of capturing comets that come close to Earth. Once captured we could pull them into an orbit around the Earth.
There are an estimated 40,000 comets that come close to Earth each year. Each comet is estimated to have around 10 tons of pure water. 400,000 tons of water wouldn’t come close to solving our water crisis, but it could do a lot to alleviate it.
Another, somewhat crazy sounding proposal, is to use rockets to mine water from the Moon’s surface by blowing up the surface. Three companies – Lunar Outpost, Honeybee Robotics, and Masen Space Systems – are working towards developing a mining system using rockets. They hope mining could start as early as 2023.
Much of the water mined in space, especially water from the outer limits of our solar system, will go towards developing rocket fuel. Hydrogen and Oxygen are primary ingredients for most rocket fuel.
However, bringing water back to Earth is a possibility, albeit one that needs major innovations to bring the cost down from astronomical levels.
In construction and engineering, what could such an abundance of water bring? Much like with minerals mined in space, we could see new innovations that were limited by our lack of water on Earth.
A lot of research now is devoted to finding ways to reduce water consumption in construction. Could mining in space alleviate the stress and urgency behind or even change the direction of this research?
It’s easy to get dreamy when thinking about the possibilities. At this point, only time will tell how mining in space could change our world.