New NASA Mission to Help Us Learn How to Mine Asteroids

130809010232Over the last hundred years, the human population has exploded from about 1.5 billion to more than seven billion, driving an ever-increasing demand for resources. To satisfy civilization’s appetite, communities have expanded recycling efforts while mine operators must explore forbidding frontiers to seek out new deposits, opening mines miles underground or even at the bottom of the ocean.

Asteroids could one day be a vast new source of scarce material if the financial and technological obstacles can be overcome. Asteroids are lumps of metals, rock and dust, sometimes laced with ices and tar, which are the cosmic “leftovers” from the solar system’s formation about 4.5 billion years ago. There are hundreds of thousands of them, ranging in size from a few yards to hundreds of miles across. Small asteroids are much more numerous than large ones, but even a little, house-sized asteroid should contain metals possibly worth millions of dollars. Continue reading

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India plans to launch first Mars mission, test large rocket this year

6C8356923-irnss-1a-launch.blocks_desktop_mediumIndia plans a feverish schedule of satellite launches in the second half of this year, including liftoff of the country’s first robotic Mars mission and a crucial test of an indigenous rocket designed to loft large spacecraft to high-altitude orbits and deep space.

If the missions launch successfully and on schedule, 2013 could be a banner year for the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), which has matured at a measured pace over the last few decades, debuting environmental and communications satellites and an unmanned mission to the moon. Continue reading