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UNSW forum to investigate asteroid and planetary mining operations

UNSW forum to investigate asteroid and planetary mining operations

Stephen Kuper

The team at the UNSW Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) is looking for ways that Australia can leverage remote mining expertise as part of plans to expand space mineral exploration operations.

Since its inception, NASA has proposed a vision of human exploration that involves missions and outposts in Earth orbit, the lunar surface and Mars, with supplies delivered from Earth's surface. When in-space resources are considered, they are assumed to be derived from the surface of the moon or Mars, with some consideration of Phobos and Deimos.

The UNSW ACSER plays a key role in developing Australia's capacity to participate in the human exploration and colonisation of space, and draws on the experience and leading-edge expertise developed by Australia's mining industry to enhance the country's growing space industry. 

Professor Andrew Dempster, director of ACSER at UNSW, believes that Australia is uniquely placed to carve itself a niche in the global space industry by exploiting its position of strength in mining expertise.

"Australia has a natural advantage for off-Earth mining – we have some of the very best mining research, technology and automation tools in the world, and the largest mining companies," Professor Dempster said. 

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Recognising this, UNSW will be hosting a discussion with Dr Robert Jedicke from the University of Hawaii to discuss the future of near-Earth object (NEO) mining and space exploration and Australia's place in the growing space economy. 

NEO resources are a cost-effective approach because they contain available, exploitable extraterrestrial materials that are delivered to the inner solar system by gravitational perturbations from the planets, they have been naturally pre-processed into objects the ideal size for industrial operations, and they contain critical materials for cost-effective, self-sustaining activities in space.

Dr Jedicke has had professional careers in football, particle physics, astronomy and software engineering. He received his PhD in experimental particle physics from the University of Toronto, Canada, and then held post-doctoral positions at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, and at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

The Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) was launched at UNSW on 22 November 2010 by former astronaut Dr Jan Davis. ACSER aims to provide national leadership for Australian space engineering research.

ACSER strives to foster collaborations between researchers, industry and government and to nurture links between national and international partners to achieve Australia's space ambitions. ACSER's purpose is to develop space capabilities relevant to Australia's needs through research, innovation and education.

For future information, contact ACSER here

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