Asteroids at Luxembourg’s 2022 Space Resources WeekAsteroids at Luxembourg’s 2022 Space Resources Week https://asteroidday-uploads.s3.eu-central-1.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/17154139/unnamed.png 512 332 Asteroid Day https://asteroidday-uploads.s3.eu-central-1.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/17154139/unnamed.png
You would be forgiven for thinking that asteroids are useless lumps of dirty rock in space. In fact, one day in the not too distant future, they could make some on Earth very rich indeed. That was the inescapable conclusion I was left with after witnessing the first panel of Luxembourg’s 2022 Space Resources Week. Titled Looking for Resources: recent and future missions, it features experts talking about current and future asteroid missions, and looking forward to the technologies that might be applied to extract the hidden mineral resources that many now suspect lies inside those dirty lumps of space rock.”
Speakers from different countries were present and many of those registered had the option of following their presentations on the internet. There were several panels that addressed topics related to the concrete use of space resources, international legal framework, methods of financing research and development of technologies, sustainability issues and waste treatment, among others.
On the first day, right after the opening session, the panel Looking for Resources: recent and future missions took place, where presentations on asteroid exploration and the potential technologies needed to extract their resources were discussed.
The first presenter was professor and researcher Shogo Tachibana, a member of the Space and Planetary Science Group at Tokyo University. Remotely, Tachibana explained important stages of Hayabusa-2 mission, from the successful action of collecting asteroid samples, their arrival on Earth and all care used in the transport and safe extraction of those fragments. Enlarged images of Ryugu’s grains were displayed, which allowed an accurate analysis of the asteroid’s composition and opened up new perspectives for exploring the resources of similar bodies.
Subsequently, Professor and Head of Systems Innovation Department at Tokyo University, Hirdy Miyamoto, presented the future JAXA Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission, which will study the Martian moons Deimos and Phobos. The mission aims to investigate whether the Martian moons are asteroids captured by the planet’s gravity or remnants of a large impact in the past. It also aims to land a rover on Phobos to analyze the properties of its surface, collect samples and send them to Earth. Miyamoto also presented other Japanese space agency’s future missions for mapping and extracting resources on the lunar surface.
Benjamin Weiss, Professor of Planetary Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was the next speakerHe talked about the Psyche mission. Weiss outlined the key features of the probe’s target asteroid, the metallic asteroid Psyche, scheduled to launch next August, and expectations for how exploring a small world could be a major resource provider in the future.
After Weiss’ presentation, it was the turn of Su Meng, Founder and CEO of Origin Space. Meng presented his company’s and his country’s plans for studying and mining asteroids. Among the plans is the launch of a new telescope to help with the characterization of asteroids and choose potential targets for mining through robots.
Once Su finished, the planetary scientist, Senior Researcher at CNRS and leader of the team TOP at Côte d’Azur Observatory Patrick Michel presented the future ESA’s Hera mission towards the binary asteroid Didymos-Dimorphos. He made a comparison with other missions and highlighted how HERA will pioneer several actions and experiments for asteroid exploration and analysis.
Founder and CEO of Asteroid Mining Corporation Mitch Hunter-Scullion also attended the panel, presenting his company’s plans for prospecting for Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) and extracting their resources using robotic instruments.
Subsequently, The Research Scientist and Executive Director of the Breakthrough Initiatives at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Pete Worden explained how the use of solar sails has revolutionized the dynamics and cost of space missions, and how they can be applied to missions aimed at resource exploration and planetary defense. Worden mentioned a few missions that made use of this technology, including the soon-to-be-launched NEA Scout to study a near-Earth asteroid.