The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.
It may not be a giant leap for mankind or even a small step for mining — not yet, anyway — but word that the Rosetta spacecraft is on track to reach a distant comet is certainly of interest to space-mining pioneers in Sudbury.
“It’s going to touch down on the surface and extract a sample with a lander-mounted drill,” said Dale Boucher, CEO of Deltion Innovations Ltd. “So, what this does is move the prospecting as we know it into a more common, everyday occurrence.”
Deltion has been developing mining systems that it hopes to employ on missions to extract water and minerals in space.
The Rosetta probe, which awoke from a three-year hibernation this week to send its first signal back to Earth, isn’t going to look for harvestable resources on its faraway ball of ice and rock, but that doesn’t mean useful information for commercial applications can’t come out of the experiment, said Boucher.
“In this particular case they’re looking at it from a scientific perspective — they want to understand what it is, so they’re going to analyze these samples,” he said.
But data collected for scientific reasons can also pique the interest of mine engineers. “I was at a conference in Washington about a week and a half ago and one of the guys there, Warren Platts, got up and said the data that came back from the LCROSS moon mission basically missed all the really neat stuff from a mining perspective,” noted Boucher.
LCROSS — the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite —excavated the permanently dark floor of one of the moon’s polar craters in 2009 to look for water, but it also found large concentrations of precious metals.
“The drill they put on Rosetta was primarily designed to go out and do some science, but this does demonstrate that once they take a sample, that kind of activity is possible,” said Boucher.
Scientists awaiting samples from the European Space Agency probe are hoping to learn more about the composition of comets, with an eye to better defending the Earth from a future strike.
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