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Staking a claim in an asteroid minefield

Technology

AS the world’s mineral resources diminish, scientists are looking to the skies for the next big mining discovery.

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Asteroids contain an abundance of key resources and metals that are essential for terrestrial development and celestial advancement, most of which are in decline on Earth.

These include gold, silver, iridium, platinum and tungsten.

Alice Gorman from South Australia’s Flinders University said Australia was well placed to lead the way in the emerging industry, particularly in the areas of space law, policy and regulation.

“According to many people we are about to enter a new era of space exploration,” Dr Gorman told reporters at an online briefing at the Australian Science Media Centre.

“There are resources in space that we could use for terrestrial industry or to establish and continue space-based industry.

“We (Australia) have a lot to offer in this regard to all of the related areas and should not be taking a back seat.”

South Australia is a world leader in mining technology with top-class exploration facilities and research intuitions.

It is also the Space State of Australia thanks to its relatively large aeronautical industry in its capital city, Adelaide.

Next year about 3500 scientists and academics from around the world will make their way to the Adelaide Convention Centre to attend the International Astronautical Congress, the world’s biggest space event.

 “It’s an exciting time at the moment for the Australian space community,” Dr Gorman said.

“Not only do we have the International Astronautical Congress coming to Adelaide, we also host the Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program every year.

“We are going to put South Australia on the space map even more than it already is.”

The race to harvest minerals from asteroids has already begun after the United States Congress passed the Space Resource Exploration and Utilization Act.

The legislation allows space firms to keep any resources they obtain from outer space.

The main concern is that only countries with the capabilities of launching mining missions will reap the benefits, contravening a number of treaties and international laws.

Professor Steven Freeland from Western Sydney University said the need for international collaboration and co-operation was paramount.

“Space is an interesting paradigm because it is highly competitive from a strategic viewpoint, from a military perspective, and because of the nature of commercial activities,” he said.

“On one level there is a range of inhibiting factors that may limit the ability to collaborate.

“But on the other hand the history of space research, the history of space science and indeed the history of development of some technologies has been rich with broad co-operation even between countries that are terrestrially not ad idem.”

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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