Update of the Implications of Recent Space Resource Discovery

by Anthony Zuppero, Idaho Natl Engineering Lab, Idaho Falls, United States,
Pat Whitman, Idaho Natl Engineering Lab, Idaho Falls, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Engineering, Construction, and Operations in Space IV


Immense resources have been discovered in the space near Earth during the last decade. Last August, 1992, one of the resource objects was discovered to contain a key ingredient that might make practical the recovery of these resources in space for use on Earth: water ice. The new class of objects could provide vast and accessible space transportation and material resources, and possibly clean, alternative energy for Earth. Of order 1000 times more mass can be removed from these near-Earth Objects (NEOs) than from any of the planets or moons, including Earth's moon, because of extremely low gravity. Of order 100's of times more mass can be delivered to an orbit around Earth because of the proximity of NEOs to Earth's orbit. A Workshop on this subject concluded 1) a new formation of near Earth objects contain abundant rocket fuel ore, catalysts, plant food and construction materials, 2) small telescopes can find more of them; existing, aircraft-launched rockets can flyby, penetrate and characterize them; 3) state of the art propulsion technology can provide rockets to send extraction systems to them, 4) steam rockets can nudge massive payloads from NEOs back to orbits around Earth, and 5) the massive construction material returned to orbit around Earth may enable the economics of solar power satellite, wireless power transmission to Earth. For the purpose of evaluating the potential of using resources from `Near Earth Objects' to enhance man's activities in space, a Space Energy Resource Utilization Initiative Workshop was held during 29 through 31 March, 1993, at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. This report summarizes the Workshop results with a focus on operations in space.

Subject Headings: Space exploration | Space colonies | Construction materials | Space structures | Orbits | Water resources | Steam power

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