Asteroid mining

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Asteroid mining (partly borrowed from the English ' asteroid mining ' ) or space mining refers to concepts for the extraction of raw materials in space .


Asteroids , comets and meteoroids can have very high concentrations u. a. of precious metals or rare earth metals , which may be important for raw material extraction in the future. M asteroids such as B. an object of the main belt , the asteroid (16) Psyche and others like (129) Antigone , (97) Klotho , (21) Lutetia , (55) Pandora , (755) Quintilla are very rich in metals. (3554) Amun z. B. has a high proportion of metals of the iron-platinum group and also many non-metallic elements such as nitrogen, sulfur and phosphorus. Depending on the condition and density, a 1 km property could meet today's demand for industrial metals for decades. Many large and metal-rich objects, the raw materials of which could be very valuable, are located in the asteroid belt.

Near-Earth asteroid Eros
Object distribution in the asteroid belt

Spectroscopic investigations of S-asteroids such as (387) Aquitania and (980) Anacostia suggest minerals from the pyroxene group , oliving group and also spinel or chromite . Radar astronomical measurements of the Arecibo and Goldstone observatories of the E-class asteroid (44) Nysa show occurrences of enstatite , forsterite and pyroxene. The earth orbit cruiser (3103) Eger also seems to consist of these components.

V-asteroids can also have deposits that are worthwhile for space mining. Water and ice were also detected on asteroids and other celestial bodies. Terrestrial ores, as they occur in the Bushveld complex , have a platinum metal concentration of 10 ppm , meteoritic finds show concentrations of 100 ppm. Of the around 5300 (as of 2017) known terrestrial minerals , around 300 are found in meteorites .

Research, concepts

Concepts include future manned space missions, but above all unmanned missions that use robots to detect any occurrences and automatically dismantle them. Also, sample return missions are planned. In September 2011, the Keck Institute for Space Studies at Caltech began a feasibility study, the Asteroid Retrieval Mission Study . The final report was published at the beginning of April 2012. The study evaluates and researches the feasibility and requirements that would be necessary to find a suitable NEA, to capture it using robotic techniques and to bring the object close to the earth for further investigations and use.

In the Advanced Space Transportation Program , an R&D program by NASA , advanced space systems and propulsion technologies , including a. developed for asteroid mining. As part of another program, NASA and the Caterpillar company are researching future mining technologies that could be used on Earth's moon.

On future long-term, interplanetary and interstellar space missions , extraterrestrial resources could be used for the production of various materials and fuels. For this, the term was in situ Resource Utilization or Extraterrestrial Resource Utilization (dt. About aliens resource utilization ) coined. The Glenn Research Center is researching concepts to make helium 3 and hydrogen directly from the atmospheres of planets usable for spacecraft propulsion in situ ; this is known as atmospheric mining .

In July 2012, the holding 's Advanced Concepts Team of ESA at ESTEC a colloquium on asteroid mining from. The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts ("NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts", NIAC) announced the RAP (Robotic Asteroid Prospector) project in September 2012, which examines the possibilities and technical system requirements for future asteroid mining missions.

On April 5, 2013, US Senator and former astronaut Bill Nelson announced a US $ 104 million NASA project, the New Asteroid Initiative . The plan was to find a suitable, small asteroid by 2019, capture it with robotic probes and bring the object into lunar orbit . From 2021 manned landing missions with the Space Launch System and Orion should take place on the asteroid in order to test necessary techniques and technologies for future projects; However, this project was abandoned under US President Donald Trump .

Researchers classified a group of initially twelve smaller objects as EROs ( Easily Retrievable Objects ). These near-earth asteroids, such as 2006 RH120 , 2010 VQ98, 2007 UN12 and others, could be reached with currently available technology (as of 2013) due to their orbital data and could be brought into the vicinity of L1 / L2 of the earth-sun system. The astrophysicist Martin Elvis adapted the Drake equation in order to be able to make initial estimates about a possible number of suitable objects and published the first conservative results in early 2014.

At the end of June 2014, Planetary Resources and the citizen science web portal Zooniverse started the “ Asteroid Zoo ” project, with data from the Catalina Sky Survey being evaluated by the interested public. The aim of the search is to find previously unknown objects that may U. could be used for asteroid mining in the future or pose a threat in the event of a collision with Earth .

In September 2016, NASA launched the OSIRIS-REx space probe to explore the asteroid Bennu . January 2017, NASA confirmed an exploration mission to the M-asteroid Psyche planned for 2023 . As part of the ESA / SNSB / DLR, REXUS project, the Drilling Experiment for Asteroid Mining was carried out in March 2017 .

Legal basis

In November 2013, Robert Bigelow asked the Federal Aviation Administration to amend the 1967 Space Treaty to allow future ownership and use rights for mining on the moon. In July 2014, US politicians Bill Posey and Derek Kilmer filed a motion for a bill , the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act of 2014 , that supports businesses like asteroid mining. Donna Edwards and others raised concerns, including potential space law risks.

In May 2015, the United States House of Representatives passed a bill that would also regulate asteroid mining, the SPACE Act of 2015 . In November 2015, the draft space mining law passed the US Senate . US President Barack Obama signed the law on November 25th. Critics of the HR2262 - US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act see the 1967 Space Treaty and the Moon Treaty violated.

The Luxembourg Chambre des Députés passed the Space Resources Act on July 13, 2017 , which regulates the extraction of extraterrestrial resources. The law came into force on August 1, 2017. The space lawyer Stephan Hobe criticized the actions of Luxembourg and considers the law to be contrary to international law . UNOOSA and other institutions are examining space law models and international law frameworks for the future use of space resources.

The United Arab Emirates are also working on a legal framework to enable space mining. In March 2017 the International Institute of Space Law published a study on aspects of space law . In June 2018, the Federation of German Industries called for a space law that also includes questions of space liability in the event of false starts of space ferries or accidents in space.

Industrial development

On April 24, 2012, a group of investors led by Peter Diamandis , Eric Schmidt , Larry Page , James Cameron , Charles Simonyi and others announced the establishment of Planetary Resources (“Planetary Resources ”) at a press conference in the Museum of Flight (Seattle) . A corporate goal is the detection of suitable, near-Earth asteroids using space telescopes and a later automated prospecting , exploration and mining of raw material deposits, such as B. osmium, iridium, platinum, palladium and water through robotic probes. Conventional mining officials have been reluctant to share Planetary Resources’s plans , and concerns have been raised about the potential impact on commodity markets . The experimental project Asterank evaluates asteroids based on a possible material value. In 2013 Planetary Resources announced a cooperation with Bechtel Corporation .

In January 2013, the US company Deep Space Industries announced plans for asteroid mining and announced the first exploration missions for 2015.

In summer 2014 NASA signed a cooperation agreement with Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries .

At a conference on future mining methods ( Third International Future Mining Conference ) in November 2015, the cost of a possible space mining project on Earth's moon was estimated at USD 9 billion, and on the dwarf planet (1) Ceres at around USD 27 billion.

In February 2016, the government of Luxembourg announced that it would create a legal framework for asteroid mining and promote research and development in this direction. The development of a small experimental spacecraft Prospector-X is planned in cooperation with Deep Space Industries . Luxembourg is initially funding the initiative with EUR 200 million and intends to implement the first space law framework by 2017. One of the project advisers to the Luxembourg government is the astrophysicist Pete Worden . In February 2017, Luxembourg and the European Investment Bank announced a cooperation. In May 2018, the Luxembourg Ministry of Economic Affairs launched the Challenge in cooperation with ESA . The competition is intended to initiate and promote further developments in the field of utilizing space resources.

More resources

Moon Mineralogy Mapper image of the Earth's moon

There are natural resources on moons from which ores can be extracted, for example . On the earth moon is u. a. Titan , helium and KREEP available. The Clementine lunar probe was used to map lunar titanium concentrations. The mineral ilmenite occurs in lunar basalt from the Mare basins and can contain 15 to 20 percent titanium. Rock samples returned from Apollo 17 contained up to 30% titanium. A large part of the lunar crust consists of anorthosite . Troctolite and norite are found in the highlands . Lunar pyroclastic deposits , so-called dark mantle deposits (DMD) , indicate mafic minerals that contain lead , gallium , copper , zinc and others. More than 100 DMDs are known to date. More detailed exploration and mineral mapping was planned with the Moon Mineralogy Mapper spectrometer of the Chandrayaan-1 probe. Also for planets such as B. Mars there are considerations to use the available resources one day for a Mars colony . There are also futuristic concepts for the inner planets Venus and Mercury .

Operational space travel

The technology demonstrator Arkyd 3 from Planetary Resources , which is planned for the first orbital component tests , was destroyed on October 28, 2014 in the explosion of an Antares . Arkyd 3 Reflight was transported to the ISS in April 2015 with SpaceX CRS-6 and was brought into a LEO via the Kibō airlock in July . The launch of another test satellite Arkyd 6 was also planned for 2015. In January 2018 the CubeSat Arkyd 6 from Planetary Resources took off with PSLV-C40 and was successfully launched in orbit.


The space law deals with the legal aspects of space mining.

As part of the Strategic Defense Initiative , researchers theoretically examined the possibility of harnessing resources on the Earth's moon and near-Earth asteroids . Researchers are also investigating whether biomining could potentially be used in asteroid mining . Also, Von Neumann probes might extraterrestrial sources of raw materials use. Traces of mining activities ( targeted asteroid mining ) on other celestial bodies could provide indications of technical activities for SETI .

Some researchers also point to the possible risks of asteroid mining. For example, there is a risk of contaminating other celestial bodies : on the one hand through forward contamination of asteroids by terrestrial life forms, but also through backward contamination with possibly existing extraterrestrial life forms . The increase in space debris is also feared.

The exploitation of asteroids was used very early in science fiction literature, first in 1898 in the novel Edison's Conquest of Mars by Garrett P. Serviss . In 1903 Konstantin Ziolkowski mentioned possible asteroid resources in a publication. The Colorado School of Mines will be offering a Master’s degree in Space Resources from the 2017 winter semester .

See also



  • John S. Lewis: Mining the sky - untold riches from the asteroids, comets, and planets. Addison-Wesley, Reading 1997, ISBN 0-201-32819-4 , German: Unlimited Future. Bettendorf, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-88498-126-9 .
  • Viorel Badescu: Asteroids - prospective energy and material resources. Springer, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-642-39243-6 .
  • Ricky Lee: Law and Regulation of Commercial Mining of Minerals in Outer Space. Springer, Dordrecht 2012, ISBN 978-94-007-2038-1 .
  • Ram Jakhu, et al .: Space Mining and Its Regulation. Springer, Cham 2016, ISBN 978-3-319-39245-5 .
  • Joseph N. Pelton: The New Gold Rush - The Riches of Space Beckon! Springer, Cham 2017, ISBN 978-3-319-39272-1 .
  • Annette Froehlich: Space Resource Utilization: A View from an Emerging Space Faring Nation. Springer, Cham 2018, ISBN 978-3-319-66968-7 .


Web links

Commons : Asteroid Mining  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Space mining  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

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