Jan 23, 2013

Mining the moon in 10 years: more science than fiction

Space and mining boffins will gather in Sydney next month to discuss the possibly of mining on the moon, asteroids and even Mars. It could happen a lot sooner than you'd think.

Tom Cowie

Crikey journalist


Houston, we have diamonds. That could be the message to come from our next space mission if a growing interest in mining other planets one day comes to fruition. Academics, miners and space industry experts will gather next month for the Off Earth Mining Forum at UNSW to discuss the possibilities of extracting resources from the galaxy. NASA will be there, as will Rio Tinto, for the two-day forum, with presentations including "Mining Machine Automation", "Space Business Innovation" and "The Moon -- a Lawless Outpost?". Professor Andrew Dempster from the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research is one of the organisers of the event. He says off-earth mining is one of the new areas of space research and could one day help lead to the colonisation of other planets. He predicts we could be mining the moon in 10 years. "What we're trying to do here is take some of the blue sky academic people and get them to sit with some hard-headed miner types and see what sort of common ground we can find," he told Crikey. "If someone is going to have a business case for going to space, then mining is probably the first cab off the rank." One company already hoping to capitalise on the growing interest in space mining is Planetary Resources. Backed by film maker James Cameron and Google's Eric Schmidt and Larry Page, the company hopes to harvest minerals from passing asteroids. Another company, Deep Space Industries, hopes to launch a fleet of space craft to investigate asteroid minerals by 2015.

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