The global race to mine outer space


Both interest in and financial commitments to space activities, in particular around the moon, by governments, space agencies and the private sector have surged in recent years.

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The asteroid mining market is already valued at up to trillions of dollars, but a single drill from earth has yet to make it to space.

While space mining is a concept still out of this world to some, it is real for the mining industry. After long being considered mostly science-fiction, governments are now implementing programs and legislation that allow them to join the race for mining in space.

Dr. Carlos Espejel is a mining industry veteran and current Space Resources Utilization Engineer at ispace, a private commercial lunar exploration company with offices in Luxembourg, the first European country to offer a legal framework ensuring private capitals their rights over resources they mine in space, and Tokyo. ispace builds the transportation technology needed to make it to the moon.

ispace was the managing company of team Hakuto, one of five finalists in the Google lunar Xprize competition, which called for privately funded teams to be the first to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon, travel 500 meters, and transmit hi-definition video and images back to earth.

Hakuto lunar rover. Image from ispace.

“We can actually land instruments and payloads on the lunar surface. We have the capabilities to travel and land on the moon, Espejel told MINING.COM.

“We can transport and land instruments on the lunar surface. Our exploration technologies – rovers and landers – will carry instruments for the exploration of resources, like Lunar H2O and oxygen.”

Espejel said the moon is the first area the company has focused on in space. The second area is resource and reserves evaluation, as well as the acquisition of exploration data.

“From previous missions led by space agencies as NASA, JAXA, ESA, and ISRO, we have data and knowledge of certain elemental distributions on the lunar surface, and we know there are a lot of potential resources,” he said.

Mining the moon’s resources

ispace has two moon missions planned – the first for 2021, M1, putting a rover on mixed latitudes, and in 2023 – a mission planned to the south pole.

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Source:: Infomine