Is The USA Space Force Setting The Stage For Rare Earth “Gold” Mining on Asteroids?

US Geological Survey Hopes to Begin Prospecting for Space Mines Soon

Sputnik News
Asteroid mining
The US Geological Survey is looking to expand its scope beyond the United States and into the cosmos, applying its understanding of geology to the search for ‒ and collection of ‒ valuable mineral resources from moons, asteroids, comets and planets in outer space.

The Colorado School of Mines, which offers one of the coolest sounding university degree tracks ever — the Space Resources Program — hosted a Space Resources Roundtable in June, and several USGS officials were present.

“The space-resources community will benefit greatly from working together with the USGS to assess the location and value of minerals, energy and water on the moon, Mars and asteroids,” Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Center for Space Resources at the Colorado School of Mines, told the audience at the conference.

“The space-resources community will benefit greatly from working together with the USGS to assess the location and value of minerals, energy and water on the moon, Mars and asteroids,” Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Center for Space Resources at the Colorado School of Mines, told the audience at the conference.

Hayabusa 2
President Donald Trump points skyward before donning protective glasses to view the solar eclipse, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, at the White House in Washington .
The waxing Moon over Moscow

He noted that the USGS’ proven expertise in terrestrial geological mapping, including locating resource deposits, is readily applicable to extraterrestrial operations as well, Space.com reported.

“The USGS has been paying steadily increasing attention to the issue of space resources for the last several years,” USGS research geologist Laszlo Kestay told Space.com for an article published Tuesday. USGS is already involved in space programs, he noted, having partnered with NASA on the Landsat Earth observation satellite program, effectively making USGS a US space agency already.

“At this point, we have done enough work to feel confident that the methods the USGS uses to assess mineral, energy and water resources on Earth can be used to assess space resources with minimal modification,” Kestay said. “We have also done enough preliminary work to identify some areas where humanity’s lack of knowledge will result in exceedingly large uncertainties in assessments undertaken today.”

The next logical step, then, from using satellites to map Earth’s geology is using them to map other stellar objects’ geologies. That’s going to become increasingly possible as several space agencies continue to gear up for the next generation of deep space travel, both manned and unmanned.

Kestay told Space.com that he anticipates Congressional funding for full scale assessments of space resources, “and we are taking a number of steps to be prepared for that possibility.”

Huge Prospects

But this isn’t seen as a “Star Trek”-esque glorious future of united humanity collectively exploiting the resources of the stars: it’s going to be a capitalist free-for-all, pursued out of national interest and seeking to deny space resources to rival Earth-bound powers.

“The majority of rare earth minerals generated today, terrestrially, are from China, which is a real risk to our industries in the United States,” Bob Lindberg, vice president for flight systems at Moon Express, said at the 2016 Space Commerce Conference and Exposition in Houston, Texas.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has made it increasingly clear that the creation of the new sixth branch of the US military — the Space Force — was motivated in no small part by fears of China’s future dominance of space, Sputnik has reported.

President Donald Trump points skyward before donning protective glasses to view the solar eclipse, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, at the White House in Washington .

Spaceship

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In Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic “Dune,” he who controls the spice — a resource essential for human space travel — controls the universe. The real universe may not be too different, with space mining possibly serving as both a source of outstanding wealth for prospectors looking to sell back on Earth, but also as a valuable off-world source of vital resources that would otherwise have to be transported from the surface of Earth into orbit — a costly venture, to say the least.

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