Robotic Options for Mining of Near-Earth Objects

by Russell J. Miller, Colorado Sch of Mines, Golden, United States,
Robin R. Murphy, Colorado Sch of Mines, Golden, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Robotics for Challenging Environments


The mining and processing of a Near-Earth Object (NEO) should be as simple and as robust as possible - the fewer processes and parts the better. Reliability and survivability of the total (mining plus processing) system must exceed anything now in use on Earth. The methodology of choice is to integrate the mining and metallurgical processes together as much as possible with minimal disruption to the surface of the target. The approach proposed is to liberate and possibly process the minerals of interest within the NEO itself. Waste materials will be left behind and never handled externally to the target. The sequence of events will consist of getting the mining/processing system in the vicinity of the NEO; attaching the system to the target; drilling into the interior of the object; and extracting the minerals of interest with heat or super-critical fluids. None of these events or processes require the presence of humans, thus such a mission is ideally suited to robotic accomplishment. Potential NEO mining targets and requirements are described, as well as how sensing and control will have to be integrated within the total system.

Subject Headings: Robotics | Space structures | Space exploration | System reliability | Waste management | Drilling | Human factors | Probe instruments

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