Mining Near-Earth Resources


Mining the potentially vast storehouse of natural resources contained within near-Earth objects (NEOs) could assist mitigation of the danger that a threatening object presents to life on Earth. Properly planned, NEO mining could provide a substantial basis for the exploration and development of space, in addition to providing important tools and opportunities for mitigating impact hazards.

The key to successful NEO mining is the appropriate modification of tried-and-true terrestrial mining techniques for the very unfamiliar and dangerous environment of space. Mining engineering is unlike traditional engineering disciplines in that, as a whole, it is less easily quantified; the practitioner must retain flexibility and resilience in the face of wide and unknown variations in material properties. This unique element of mining engineering will be an asset in space operations. Understanding of the basics of mining and processing will improve the planning and designing of NEO mitigation missions.

Space possesses many properties that are unique in human experience. Some of these can provide efficient new means of accomplishing old tasks. Others will prove to be obstacles that must be overcome. Mining and processing techniques that are inefficient curiosities on Earth may form the basis of powerful new methodologies in space. on the other hand, some vital processes will demand innovative engineering for success. This paper discusses the effects of the space environment on the application to NEO resources of mining methodologies developed over more than a thousand years on Earth. It will focus on the four mechanical classifications of NEOs described in Gertsch et al. (this volume).

Meeting Name

Near Earth Objects: The United Nations Conference


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Classification; Engineering; Exploratory Behavior; Hazard; Methodology; Mining; Space

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


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© 1997 Wiley, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 May 1997