The scientific space race in the next years will be dominated by space drilling rigs, water extraction on the Moon and 3D printers at space stations, says Pavel Ananyev, the director of the Scientific-Educational Center for Innovative Mining Technologies of the Moscow-based National University of Science and Technology
Ananyev is one of the founding members of the Space Placer Miners club, which includes representatives from the NUST MISIS Mining Institute, senior officials from Tomsk State University, Tomsk State University of Control Systems and Radioelectronics and several other Russian technology institutes.
In an interview with RIA Novosti carried by Sputnik, he outlined the current points of interest for scientists in space.
“On our own, we are currently promoting the development of a raw materials space base. Today this issue remains closed for discussion in Russia, as international law prohibits all countries and companies from mining natural space resources. Space is considered mankind’s common heritage, and it is regulated by relevant law.”
“Only two countries do not abide by the international law – the U.S. two years ago adopted national legislation allowing private companies to extract mineral resources in space. The second country is Luxembourg, where the government changed the legislation and now encourages development in this area,” Ananyev says.
“No one has “space mined” so far, but in five to ten years science will start addressing this issue more actively. Meanwhile, space mining and processing is a huge international market worth $3 trillion,” the scientist added.
According to Ananyev, world powers are soon to engage in a new kind of space race, aimed at collecting valuable minerals from space bodies and objects. It is possible to find in outer space a ten-meter asteroid so rich in gold that its content would equal our entire planet’s gold reserves, the scientist says.
“Our main goal is to use these resources to build research bases in space and the Earth’s orbit without violating international law. Today, 99 percent of the payload delivered into the Earth’s orbit is fuel. If we start extracting water from the lunar soil and found on natural space objects, and start producing hydrogen-based fuel up there, it will make space exploration hundreds of times cheaper, and change the entire paradigm of space technology.”
Ananyev says space is the logical next frontier for mankind.
“Digital manufacturing, artificial intelligence, globalization — all these things will lead to the point when mankind will get bored with the Earth. Eventually, we will ask the question: what should we develop next, what should we explore? There will only be two answers left, the oceans and space”, he concluded.