What’s the Space Race Odyssey?
Do you know the reason why political and commercial interest in space mining is growing? Resources relatively scarce on Earth have been found to exist in abundance in the solar system. As our planet grapples with resource scarcity, a potential solution is to transverse outer space to extract metals, minerals and energy sources. But the question is would the exploitation of celestial property lead to the greater benefit of mankind?
Some experts believe that plundering resources from asteroids or other celestial bodies could be a lucrative and sustainable way to meet growing demands. Apart from minerals such as platinum, gold, iron, nickel and rare gases such as helium 3, at the top of the mining resource list is the exploration of water which is a prerequisite for supporting Space Colonies. Without water, space exploration and settlement cannot progress. Apart from drinking, water can be used to make hydrogen to fuel spaceships. This would be a game-changer enabling spaceships to refuel in space and travel further.
The treasure huntBlue Origin/Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is big on plans to tap the limitless resources in space and Elon Musk, Founder of SpaceX is ambitious to extract resources from space, particularly from the moon and Mars. As commercial adventurers seek to strip celestial bodies of their rare minerals and precious metals the outland treasure hunt is inevitable. As per a report by NASA, the mineral wealth of asteroids itself is in quadrillions.
Several private companies, such as Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, have already launched technology for space mining in action. These companies envision a future where space exploration and development would be a major industry, providing a sustainable source of resources for Earth.
Star Wars: clash in spaceIn the space race, several countries are in a rush to mark their territory on off-earth mining fields. Global superpowers such as Russia, China and the United States aren’t cooperating and are willing to wage a space war over extracting resources in outer space. In essence, whichever country gains access first to these rare space minerals has R&D advantages and can make billions from it. Also, the country that explores and ‘colonizes’ space first will gain limelight on the world stage.
Risks of meddling with celestial bodiesHowever, with advantages there are also risks that need to be addressed before space mining goes full-fledged. With currently no clear international laws or celestial property rights governing space mining, there are concerns about the environmental effects of tampering with resources in space. Economic risks include uncertainty and potential conflicts between countries, space agencies and companies. Geopolitical risks include exacerbating inequalities by limiting such resources to certain countries.
Some questions unanswered are ‘Who owns the resources in space? Will space mining be free on a first-come, first-served basis? Which authority would ensure resources are used responsibly for humanity’s benefit? Can stringent international frameworks and regulations bet space mining will be beneficial for mankind and our universe?’ Only time will reveal.
Alvina Clara, Content Writer, emQube