The new Space Race: Luxembourg takes the lead in space mining
Possible space mining craft. Specialized technologies will have to be developed to compensate for zero gravity.
While SpaceX hopes to colonize Mars and build an outpost on the moon, the government of Luxembourg clearly has its own plans for the moon and the mining industry.
On Monday, the little country announced that it had signed a deal with Kleos Space, a new company owned by UK space engineering firm Magna Parva that specializes in developing space infrastructure, as well as geo-location. Last year, Luxembourg began to strongly promote the concept of asteroid mining. Since then, Luxembourg and US-based Deep Space Industries began working together to develop asteroid mining technologies. Kleos Space is one of numerous firms to have settled into Luxembourg or sign a deal since.
One part of the new deal has Kleos Space partnering with a Luxembourg electronics company named EmTroniX to speed up the development of in-space mining technology. Previous deals include the partnership with Deep Space Industries, where the two are building a spacecraft named Prospector-X that will test technologies for asteroid mining after 2020.
Though a tiny country nestled between Germany, France, and Belgium, Luxembourg is one of the wealthiest nations in Europe. The country has invested $28 million in another US-based company, Planetary Resources, to help it launch its own first asteroid prospecting mission by 2020.
Further, Luxembourg’s government was the very first in Europe to pass legislation regarding space mining. The law defines the conditions companies must fulfill to obtain a licence for launching a space mining mission.
Tageblatt, a German newspaper, reported that Luxembourg plans to have a space agency of its own by the end of 2017.
With all the investment the country has committed to space so far, Luxembourg apparently aims to be Europe’s command center for industrial space activity, and perhaps with good reason. According to geologists, asteroids are composed of precious metals in significantly higher concentrations than can be found on earth, creating a market worth trillions of dollars.
Beyond the risk of accidentally uncovering a murderous alien out of the center of an asteroid much like the 1996 movie Within the Rock, however, mining outside of Earth will be no easy task up front. All existing mining technologies have been developed within the parameters that Earth provides; gravity, for example. Luxembourg, Deep Space Industries, Planetary Resources, and all others involved will need to think of ways to mine and collect the minerals and ores they seek without having their feet planted firmly on the ground, as they would on Earth.
Should anyone overcome these challenges, however, the results would be astronomical. One might wonder how the sudden influx of high-quality precious metals would affect their value and use here on earth. There would also be important implications for space industry in general; if we can mine an asteroid, what else can we do out there?
All these questions can only be answered when someone takes the first step, and Luxembourg’s government, Magna Parva, Space X, and all others involved are all working both together and independently to become those pioneers.
The German newspaper Tageblatt reported that the government plans to have a space agency of its own by the end of 2017.
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