JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Space mining – the mining of bodies and other worlds in outer space for minerals and other natural resources – remains within the realm of science fiction. For now.
But, during the younger years of most of the world’s current senior mining executives, personal communication devices (cellphones) were science fiction, as were a whole plethora of compact electronic and domestic devices that are today widely available, affordable and, indeed, nearly ubiquitous.
It is very likely that, within the remaining life spans of those self-same senior mining executives, space mining will become a scientific, technological, engineering and financial fact.
TO BOLDLY GO . . .
Largely, if not totally, unnoticed by the terrestrial mining sector, a US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) probe, OSIRIS-REx, is currently cruising through space en route to a rendezvous with a near-earth asteroid (NEA) named Bennu (previously designated 1999 RQ36).
Launched in September 2016, OSIRIS-REx (the name is an acronym for Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security – Regolith Explorer) will rendezvous with Bennu in August 2018, subject it to a detailed survey (involving mapping the chemistry and mineralogy of the asteroid), including the identification of sample collection sites. This will take more than a year.
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