Space Mineral Resources – A Global Assessment of the Challenges and Opportunities, published in 2015, 392 pages.
The exploitation of space mineral resources is becoming a commercial space endeavor for the benefit of humanity and profit. In 2012, the IAA approved a broad study of the technology, economics, legal and policy aspects of identifying, obtaining, and using these resources. In 2013 and 2014, multiple commercial ventures announced their intensions to initiate human (and robotic) missions to the Moon, Mars and asteroids. The question on the table is not “how” to leverage space minerals resources, but ”how best” to leverage them. The purpose of this study is to provide, in one document, the current state of the art of the technology, economics, law & policy related to Space Mineral Resource (SMR) opportunities. The study will make specific recommendations for moving forward as it will also provide a brief analysis of opportunities. The industrial use of SMR is no longer science fiction; and, feasibility is no longer a function entirely of engineering – the game changer is recognized to be economics. Preliminary economic conclusions include (1) architectures based upon returning precious metals to terrestrial markets alone appears to be a non-starter, (2) the existence of in-space customers for propellants, consumables, structural materials, and shielding could make asteroid mining economically feasible, and (3) longer-term hybrid architectures with both terrestrial and in-space customers could become feasible as costs drop and market size increases. This study was conducted under the assumption that the international space community can make a difference. The study was primarily conducted by knowledgeable professionals from two industries: the space arena and the commercial mining industry. As such, this report was written for two audiences: global space leadership and the mining industry. We, as an industry and as a portion of humanity, can change the current arrow of history so that it points in optimistic directions allowing the human condition to improve and expand. The change that is mandated to accomplish this is to: Leverage the phenomenal resources available in our solar system. From space – For Space!