As competition for rare metals and other ground extraction-based resources heats up on Earth, some companies are beginning to target the moon, asteroids and other celestial bodies as potential mining hot spots. However, space-based mining presents a wide range of logistical challenges, one of them being a greater need for equipment maintenance software due to a lack of on-site personnel.
Although the idea of mining in space seems far-fetched to most, it may soon be a more practical reality. A rising number of companies are developing technology relating to commercial space travel, meaning the costs related to getting mining equipment like a strain gauge sensor into orbit are likely to decline soon. In addition, National Public Radio recently reported that a few companies are already working on self-sufficient robots designed to extract minerals from the moon and asteroids.
One of the reasons why a number of firms are looking into this possibility is because celestial bodies contain large amounts of many pricey and rare metals. For example, National Geographic reported that near-Earth asteroids have approximately 280 times more platinum and 54 times more gold than does Earth.
"Everything we fight about on Earth, all the resources are available in infinite quantities in space," said Bob Richards, co-founder of lunar robotics development firm Moon Express, according to NPR. "The moon is the first shopping market next door to us."
Why space mining is still a long way off
While the idea of extracting elements from the moon or asteroids may sound tempting to some, it will likely be many years before such a concept becomes reality. For starters, the main equipment needed to mine these surfaces is still in early development, and the costs of getting that machinery into space are often far more than what can be reaped with the haul.
Even assuming that mining robots built for space are developed in the next five years and the costs related to getting equipment to and from the moon decline precipitously, companies are still faced with the dilemma of trying to fix lunar machinery. Should space mining ever become a reality, it will have to be predicated on equipment maintenance software that facilitates preventive predictive maintenance in order to allow businesses to send machinery back to Earth for needed repairs before the tools break down.
Space-based mining may seem like a pipe dream now, but it's an idea that holds a lot of promise. Should this ever actually happen, then it will need to occur in part because moon miners fully understand the importance and significance of predictive maintenance.