While there is plenty of earth-bound activity in the mining sector, companies continue to explore the possibility of developing mineral resources in outer space. As part of that effort, one university has developed an advanced degree in space mining.
This fall, the Colorado School of Mines launched the world’s first Space Resources Program. While the School has been a leader in the field of space resources and in situ resource utilization since the 1990s, it is now offering Post-Baccalaureate Certificates, Masters of Science degrees, and Ph.D. degrees on the topic.1
The newly-minted Space Resources Program takes a multi-disciplinary approach to studying the exploration, extraction, and use of resources in space. Directed by Professor Angel Abbud-Madrid, it combines science, engineering, economics, entrepreneurship, and policy making. The School already has strong programs in remote sensing, geomechanics, mining, materials and metallurgy, robotics, advanced electrochemistry, solar and nuclear energy, and resource economics, which positions it well to direct these areas of expertise towards space mining.
Yet the field also requires no small amount of creativity. Even as public and private sector interest in space mining grows each year, a number of obstacles remain. Some are policy-related: both domestic and international legal frameworks present uncertainty as to private ownership of space resources. Others are technical challenges inherent to operating in space: microgravity, irregularly-shaped celestial bodies, and relatively little mapped information all make space mining difficult and costly.
Tucked against the Rocky Mountain foothills in the aptly named “Golden”, Colorado, the School of Mines draws on a long history of mining education and research in its quest to overcome these obstacles and make space mining a reality.
1. Colorado School of Mines, “Space Resources Program,” available at https://space.mines.edu/ (last visited Nov. 8, 2018)