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Mining School to Offer World's First Space Mining Degree

 

 

By Nick Whigham

 

December 2, 2017 - Being an English teacher is undeniably a noble profession, but it’s probably not quite as cool as being a space miner.

 

At least that’s what Hunter Williams thought.

 

Williams used to be an English teacher but decided he wanted to trade in the classroom for the Moon, according to Wired.

 

It all started when he was reading a 1966 sci-fi novel called The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The book is about a futuristic revolt on a lunar colony in which people lived, and consequently, mined on the Moon.

 

“I thought, ‘This is it. This is what we really could be doing’,” he told Wired.

 

So he left his teaching job for aerospace engineering school, and is now enrolled in a pilot course for the first-ever academic program specialising in space mining.

 

That’s right, you too could enrol to be a space miner.

 

The unique course is set to be offered by the Colorado School of Mines’ Center for Space Resources. Although it’s still pending approval for a 2018 start date the school plans to offer what is reported to be the world’s first graduate program in celestial resources, covering the science, technology, policy, and politics of prospecting, mining, and using space resources.

 

It may seem a bit premature but as the global economy moves into space, asteroids, the Moon and even Mars are being eagerly eyed off for the important resources they harbour — and world governments and even some in the private sector are keen to get in on the action.


“It’s not that far down the road. The market is already emerging,” Professor Andrew Dempster from the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research at UNSW told news.com.au in September.

 

At this point the industry isn’t really talking about bringing resources back to Earth, but is primarily focused on mining water and potentially other elements from near-Earth asteroids and the Moon.

 

Mining asteroids and returning the resources to satellites or space stations in Earth’s orbit is thought to be the best business case at the moment — and there are plenty of companies that would benefit from the technology.

 

“Say you’ve got a satellite that can be fuelled by that propellent, the satellites that operate at geostationary orbit, there’s a huge amount of investment in those satellites, they’re worth millions,” Prof Dempster said.

 

“Every day the data they carry for television broadcasts and other data broadcasts earn those satellites a lot of money.”

 

Being able to refuel those satellites from mining missions in outer space could prove to be a huge economic boon.

 

An artist’s impression of future explorers mining the moon for minerals.

 

An artist’s impression of future explorers mining the moon for minerals.

Source:Supplied


Total private investment in commercial space ventures has increased sixfold since 2014 and experts are predicting that we could see the first asteroid mining and resource transaction take place in space within the next decade.

 

“In our lifetimes we will see commercial space, including resources, developing into a multi-trillion dollar industry,” according to US asteroid mining company Planetary Resources chief executive Chris Lewicki.

 

NASA has already sent several missions to explore asteroids and in October announced it would fast track a mission to 16 Psyche, an asteroid made almost entirely of nickel-iron.

 

This comes as governments are making moves to pave the way for a potential galactic gold rush.

 

A rather remarkable law came into effect in the small European country of Luxembourg in August, providing a legal framework for the extraction and ownership of space resources. The country recently announced a partnership with Japan to explore such resources — one of the many other countries interested in this area.

 

For many experts, the immense interest in space resources was ignited in 2015 when US president Barack Obama signed a controversial bill giving US companies legal ownership of materials they extract from asteroids.

 

As for the Colorado School of Mining, graduates from its space-related course will work from Earth initially, analysing materials collected by robots and designing systems to turn raw materials into usable fuel for space programs, school officials said.

 

But by all accounts, space mining is an industry ready for lift off.