Scattered across our solar system are small celestial bodies packed with water ice. Yes, our planet is covered in the stuff, but water is heavy and therefore expensive to launch into space. Therefore, to supply humans in space, where you have to bring everything you need with you, it makes sense to not use a terrestrial supply and utilize the water that's already out there.
Fortunately, as our technologies become more sophisticated, the trend these days is to envision exploiting in-situ resources if we are to establish a colony. That means that you live "off the land," so to speak, extracting the resources you need to survive. In the case of water, it is abundant in asteroids and comets across the solar system and researchers say asteroids could be the answer to the future of space exploration.
At the Asteroid Science Intersections with In-Space Mine Engineering, or ASIME 2016, that was held in Luxembourg in late September space mining startups were brought together for the first time with the scientists who actually study asteroids. The workshop aimed to answer science and engineering questions about asteroid mining and soon a white paper will be created to discuss the meeting's main talking points.
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According to Phil Metzger, an associate in planetary science research with the Florida State Institute, past mining conferences have been focused on advocacy. With this one, however, the community was "organizing the process of getting it started," he told Seeker.
"It wasn't a bunch of people saying we ought to do it; that wasn't discussed because we are doing it now," he said. "We were focused on how do we do the job? The mining companies had come up with a list of questions for planetary scientists to understand the geology and the physics of asteroids, so that they can make their mining plans more specific and concrete."