Space Mining

Our civilisation is dependent on technology and natural geological resources. You are reading this on a computer, over the internet – so even you finding out about this workshop depends on plastics or aluminium in the computer casing; silicon, gold, and hafnium in the microchips; cobalt, nickel, iron, phosphorus, and neodymium in the hard disk; copper wiring; silicon dioxide fibre-optic cables; and many, many more. Some of these resources are very expensive, because on Earth, they are extremely rare. However, some are far more common in space. In this workshop, we’ll look at what natural resources our civilisation depends on, and the processes like mining we use to obtain them. We’ll explore which of these are more common in space, and we’ll discuss the advantages, disadvantages, opportunities, problems, and practicalities of obtaining these resources from space.

Day by Day Schedule

Day 1
Fantastic Resources and where to find them.

We will look at what natural resources our civilisation depends on, and where they naturally occur – the foundations of economic geology.

Day 2
And They Call This A Mine.
Finding where the natural resources are is only the first step – we still need to get them. We’ll look at some of the techniques used in the geological extractive (quarrying and mining) industries. 

Day 3
Space – The Final Frontier.

Saying we’ll get resources from space is all very well, but where in space? We’ll look at the geology and natural resources potential of the closest celestial bodies – the Moon, the planet Mars, and asteroids.

Day 4
Houston, we have a problem.

Resources might be more common in space, but is getting them practical? We’ll consider some of the issues involved, such as quarrying or mining in low-gravity, getting the resources back to Earth, and the political and economic issues over ownership, profits, and supply and demand.

Day 5
Do…or do not.

So are we at the point where mining space is a possible solution to the natural resources shortage on Earth? We’ll put together all the evidence and decide.

Project Description

You are part of an expert committee assembled by international governments to decide if mining in space is a possible solution to natural geological resources shortages on Earth. Subcommittees will research and examine individual aspects like the resource potential (what resources are out there?), political problems (e.g. who owns resources in space?), economics (e.g. is space mining cost effective?), and practical requirements (e.g. is mining in low gravity practical?), before putting everything together in a final report and decision. Is it worth it? Are we ready? No or Yes?

Learning Objectives

In this workshop students will learn about economic geology, geoengineering, and the geology of the solar system.

By the end of this workshop, students will be able to identify various natural geological resources of economic importance, and explain how these resources are extracted.

Workshop Instructor