Science 2 min read

Experts Want a Solar System Law to Protect Planets from Space Mining

UKT2 / Pixabay

UKT2 / Pixabay

As more studies reveal the abundance of rare minerals on our neighboring planets and their moons, the concept of space mining is now worrying experts. A team of space scientists is calling for over 85 percent of the entire Solar System to be declared off-limits to any form of human development.

This proposal leaves less than a quarter of space for private firms to explore and mine for precious minerals and other valuable elements. Martin Elvis, an astrophysicist from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, said in a statement:

“If we don’t think about this now, we will go ahead as we always have, and in a few hundred years we will face an extreme crisis, much worse than we have on Earth now. Once you’ve exploited the solar system, there’s nowhere left to go.”

Preventing Space Mining

Elvis’ announcement comes at a time when private companies began expressing their interest in space mining. One of these companies, the U.K.-based  aerospace startup Asteroid Mining Corporation, announced that it’s currently developing a satellite to spot potential asteroids for mining. The company wrote on its website:

“We are currently developing a satellite to prospect the near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) for mining candidates. AMC will commercialize this data set in order to fund further development of the Asteroid Mining industry, using the revenues from the Space Resource Database to refocus our R&D on the extraction, processing, and utilization of the available extra-terrestrial materials.”

Mining celestial bodies for water and precious metals is a concept being considered by space agencies to support future space missions and interplanetary travel. For instance, the European Space Agency‘s plan to build a moon base includes using space materials and the water lying beneath the moon itself.

However, making these space resources accessible to private companies changes the picture. According to Elvis, it would only take around 400 years for humans to deplete an eighth of our Solar System’s space resources. Elvis further said:

“Do we want cities on the near side of the moon that lights up at night? Would that be inspiring or horrifying? And what about the rings of Saturn? They are beautiful, almost pure water ice. Is it OK to mine those so that in 100 years they are gone.”

Read More: Mining The Moon And Ocean: Top 5 Rare Earth Minerals For Future Tech

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Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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