The grizzled asteroid miner is a stock character in science fiction. Now, a couple of recent events – one legal and the other technological – have brought asteroid mining a step closer to reality.
The legal step was taken when the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed a bill titled H.R. 2262—SPACE Act of 2015. The bill has a number of measures designed to facilitate commercial space development, including a provision that gives individuals or companies ownership of any material that they mine in outer space. According to one estimate, asteroid mining could ultimately develop into a trillion-dollar market.
The technological development is a new generation of gamma-ray spectroscope that appears perfectly suited for detecting veins of gold, platinum, rare earths and other valuable material hidden within the asteroids, moons and other airless objects floating around the solar system – just the type of “sensor” that will be needed by asteroid miners to sniff out these valuable materials.
The concept was developed by a team of scientists from Vanderbilt and Fisk Universities, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Planetary Science Institute. It is described in the article “New ultra-bright scintillators for planetary gamma-ray spectroscopy”published Oct. 23 in the SPIE Newsroom. SPIE is the International Society for Optics and Photonics and the SPIE Newsroom highlights noteworthy scientific achievements in the area of optics and photonics.
Penetrating gamma radiation identifies rock-forming elements
Planetary gamma-ray spectroscopy takes advantage of the fact that all of the objects in the solar system are continually bombarded by cosmic rays. These high-energy particles from deep space strike the exposed surfaces at relativistic velocities, smashing apart atoms in the top layers and producing a secondary shower of particles, including neutrons. The neutrons then collide repeatedly with the atoms in the material, producing gamma rays as they go. Gamma rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation like light, but they are considerably more powerful and penetrating. The decay of long-lived radioactive elements is a secondary source of gamma rays.
A gamma-ray spectroscope records the intensity and wavelengths of the gamma rays coming from a surface. This spectrum can be analyzed to determine the concentration of a number of important, rock-forming elements, including oxygen, magnesium, silicon and iron…not to mention precious metals like gold and valuable crystals like diamonds.
“Space missions to the Moon, Mars, Mercury and the asteroid Vesta among others have included low-resolution spectrometers, but it has taken months of observation time and great expense to map their elemental surface compositions from orbit,” said Professor of Astronomy Keivan Stassun, the Vanderbilt co-author. “With our proposed system it should be possible to measure sub-surface elemental abundances accurately, and to do it much more cheaply because our sensors weigh less and require less power to operate. That is good news for commercial ventures where cost, power and launch weight are all at a premium.”
Transparent crystal detects gamma rays
The key to the new instrument is a recently discovered material, europium-doped strontium iodide (SrI2). This is a transparent crystal that can act as an extremely efficient gamma-ray detector. It registers the passage of gamma rays by giving off flashes of light that can be detected and recorded.
Read more: New detector perfect for asteroid mining
The Latest on: Asteroid mining
via Google News
The Latest on: Asteroid mining
- XPRIZE founder says that he looks for two qualities in every entrepreneuron February 27, 2020 at 12:58 pm
Peter Diamandis, founder and executive chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation, has started more than 20 businesses. He's identified two traits that every founder needs.
- Short film: Over Stimulatedon February 27, 2020 at 3:28 am
Over Stimulated is an animation about asteroid mining, interplanetary relationships, AIs running companies and anger in the year 2042. Warning: Contains drug use. It’s all the work of Lumeo Edits, a ...
- Asteroid Mining: The Next Frontier in Spaceon February 24, 2020 at 5:05 am
/PRNewswire/ -- Report Includes: - An overview of the emerging market potential for asteroid mining and description of the current market conditions and ...
- Why asteroid mining is the future — and a legal minefieldon February 17, 2020 at 4:00 pm
Where is the future? The answer is no longer to be found in the realms of science fiction: according to many, it lies in the field of asteroid mining — which explains why the Luxembourg ...
- Asteroid to Give Earth a Close Shave Next Weekon February 14, 2020 at 4:00 pm
In fact, the flyby provides a rare opportunity to do the kind of data collection that the new asteroid mining companies, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, seek to do on more distant ...
- Luxembourg Hopes To Rocket To Front Of Asteroid-Mining Space Raceon February 3, 2020 at 8:16 am
The government of Luxembourg announced Wednesday that the country will be investing in the as-yet-unrealized industry of asteroid mining. The tiny European country will be funding research into ...
- Asteroid mining is a real possibility, but is it legal?on February 2, 2020 at 4:00 pm
Whether it’s for water, metal or gasses, asteroids could become a vital resource for long-term astronauts working out in space, and technically, at least under U.S. law, asteroid-mining is ...
- Google bosses invest in possible asteroid mining ventureon January 25, 2020 at 7:31 am
If you already have an account please use the link below to sign in. If you have any problems with your access or would like to request an individual access account please contact our customer ...
- Space Mining Market Study, Competitive Strategies, Key Manufacturers, New Project Investment and Forecast 2027on January 20, 2020 at 7:14 am
What is Space Mining market? Space mining also known as asteroid mining is a process that is involved in exploitation of raw materials from asteroids and other minor planets, as well as near-Earth ...
- ICOs are back — this one reckons it’ll give you a piece of asteroidon January 13, 2020 at 1:38 am
“Asteroid is building a decentralised database whereby private individuals, corporations and nation states can register claims on mining rights to over 600,000 identified asteroids in our near ...
via Bing News