September 29, 2020
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Missouri S&T prepares engineers for a future in space mining – Missouri S&T News and Research

The moon and other planets – even asteroids – may hold promise as future sources of water, hydrogen, methane, base and precious metals, and other resources. Researchers at Missouri S&T hold a wealth of expertise in natural resource exploration and extraction as well as in critical and strategic minerals, so the university stands at the forefront of space resource exploration.

“The potential for mining space resources will require input from several disciplines, from geosciences to mechanical engineering to economics to political science,” says Dr. Leslie Gertsch, associate professor of geological engineering at Missouri S&T. “Missouri S&T can be a leader in this effort because we have those programs plus our aerospace engineering program. That gives us an advantage.”

Missouri S&T has launched a space resources initiative and is offering a graduate certificate program that is intended for engineers in the civil, mining and chemical fields who are interested in space mining. The certificate is divided into four focus areas – mining engineering, metallurgy, chemical engineering and economics – aimed at developing what Gertsch calls a “robust hybrid” of several disciplines. Gertsch is teaching the introductory course, Fundamentals of Space Resources, this fall.

“We are aiming more for people who are already in engineering, and they’re designing waste dumps for St. Louis or something and don’t really see a place for themselves in space exploration,” Gertsch says. “They could use their background for space mining in the future.”

Space mining itself is sort of a “chicken-or-egg” proposal. Do we need to