China is Sending the World's First Mining Robot to Space in November
Image for representation.
China is all set to send out the world’s first mining robot into space by November this year. A private Beijing company, Origin Space, will be launching this ambitious project. Despite being called an ‘asteroid mining robot’, it’s not going to do any actual mining. The mission is a preliminary assessment, to field-test technologies aimed at the eventual mining of asteroids.
The NEO-1 will most probably be launched as a secondary payload on a Chinese Long March rocket. The spacecraft is quite light by spacecraft standards at 30 kg. It will enter at an orbit around the earth at 500 km altitude. “The goal is to verify and demonstrate multiple functions such as spacecraft orbital manoeuvre, simulated small celestial body capture, intelligent spacecraft identification and control,” said Yu Tianhong, Origin Space co-founder in an interview with IEEE Spectrum.
The actual progress that can be made by the NEO-1 mission is subject to speculations, as it has never been attempted before. The company emphasises that this mission is only a prospector and not a miner. The project, if successful, can open up a trillion-dollar industry.
The mission may sound like an episode from a science-fiction show with intergalactic power struggles. Space is mostly an uncharted territory but things are heating up. With Elon Musk’s constant messaging to “colonize Mars” to Russia laying claim on Venus as its research territory, the space activity can get really exciting in the years ahead.
Even NASA announced that it would be buying ‘moon rocks’ from private companies in the future. For scientists and even common people, space is a subject of wonder, an awe of the universe’s grandness. For billionaires, it’s a business opportunity. The ethics of taking something from space and selling it on Earth is being widely debated by scientists who are not in favour of Space privatization. But with the launch of this mining mission, those debates won’t matter once it becomes a reality.