Dreams to become a miner and an astronaut? Well, Colorado School of Mines has an answer for that. The school has recently launched the “Space Resources” course that sounds like straight out from a science-fiction book. However, unlike the sci-fi, this one actually makes sense.
Unknown to many, space mining has long been a subject of interest for science. Asteroids, for example, contains minerals that are important for the modern day Earth operations. When I say minerals, I mean rare and expensive Earth minerals like gold, copper, phosphorus, antimony, zinc, tin, lead, indium, and silver.
While Earth currently has enough (but unstable) supply of these minerals, scientists estimate that our terrestrial reserve will deplete in just about 50-60 years. Mining these minerals from asteroids and sending it back to Earth will be no easy task though. But with a large amount of these precious minerals floating freely in space, a huge money will surely be well-spent. This idea, assuming it came to fruition, could either help stabilize our supply of these minerals to meet the demands of the ever-growing consumption. Or worst, crash the world economy.
“Space Resources is an area that includes identifying the resources there are in space, and working out how to collect, extract and utilize them,” Dr. Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Center for Space Resources and Research Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering at Colorado School of Mines, told Digital Trends.
Students taking the course can earn post-baccalaureate certificates, master’s degrees, and even doctoral degrees through the interdisciplinary program. The program covers responsible exploration, extraction, and use of resources on the moon, the Mars, asteroids, and any other rocky locations in space.
“I would compare this to aviation,” Abbud-Madrid continued. “The first academic programs started just a few years after the Wright brothers [pioneered the first airplanes]. People realized quickly that this was no longer just the field of daredevils and people looking for entertainment; it was going to become very important. The same thing happened with academic aerospace programs shortly after the launch of Sputnik. Even though going to the moon looked far away, there was a realization that this would happen. Universities have to be ahead of the curve so they can start preparing people to enter [new] fields.”
Last year, NASA announced two missions, that will send a craft on an asteroid near our planet to look for this potential wealth. The missions were scheduled for 2021, and 2023 launch, and is part of NASA’s inexpensive Discovery Program. The robotic spacecraft Lucy will launch first and will target the asteroid named 16 Psyche. Psyche is about 130 miles (210 km) in diameter and is almost entirely made up of iron and nickel.
To give you an idea, 16 Psyche’s iron content alone will pack at about $10,000 quadrillion. A money so huge that it is more than enough to instantly crash the world economy. Not just that, 16 Psyche also contains a large amount of copper, platinum, and gold. And that is just the value of a single element on one asteroid. There are currently nearly 10,000 of these asteroids near the Earth. All with the same potential wealth.
So at this point in time, I assume you already made up your mind. To be, or not to be, that is the question. First year’s course has officially kicked off this week, but you still have until next year to decide. Just remember what Prince Hamlet said, and the $10,000 quadrillion worth of iron on 16 Psyche.