There is talk of lunar cities becoming a reality within the 21st century. Right now, one of the biggest question is where the building materials would come from. There is no Home Depot on the moon! The one place that these materials can get to the work site is through the space shuttle acting as a truck, which would be incredibly expensive and not very efﬁcient.
Asteroids* would be a much better option for getting the supplies. In fact, several International organizations are developing plans for getting the most we can out of these natural space resources.
There are tens of thousands asteroids circling the Sun. Most of which are located in the asteroid belt, located between the orbit of Mars and Jupiter. Multiple asteroids have strayed from this orbit, and are now ﬂying through our solar system, and have ﬂown close to Earth numerous times.
There are three categories of asteroids, which each contain a different type of resource:
1. C-type: Composition is similar to the Sun, which includes silicon, magnesium, neon, iron, sulfur, etc., but without the volatiles* that the Sun contains. About 75% of known asteroids ﬁt into this category.
2. S-type: Contains deposits of nickel, iron, and magnesium. About 17% of known asteroids ﬁt into this category.
3. M-type: Contains nickel and iron. Only a small number of asteroids ﬁt into this category.
Astronomers* categorize the asteroids by using telescopic spectroscopy, which analyzes light reﬂected from the asteroid’s surface, to ﬁnd out what might be there. In addition to iron, nickel, and magnesium, scientists believe that there might be water, oxygen, gold, and platinum on some asteroids.
Extraction of Resources
Spacecrafts are now comfortably landing on the moon. Some asteroids pass by closer than the moon, so a spacecraft going to an asteroid would need less rocket power and fuel than going to the moon. However, one problem would be how to keep the asteroid from rotating while it’s being mined. A few experts have suggested attaching rockets to the asteroid to take the spin out of it, but once this happens, how do they dig in?
No one has yet to experiment with asteroid mining, but here are a handful of great assumptions and ideas that have been made so far:
• Solar powered machinery would cut the cost and need of fuel.
• Equipment would have to be lightweight to be transported.
• Robots to do the work, so that supplies, like food, would not be needed in huge quantities.
Asteroids: Leftover material from the early formation of the solar system or debris from the destruction of a planet.
Volatiles: Chemical elements and compounds that evaporate and vaporize easily; such as hydrogen and helium.
Astronomers: Scientists who study celestial bodies; such as moons, planets, stars, nebulae, and galaxies.
Ore: Type of rock that contains minerals with important elements, including metals.
Written by Sally Sautner