Colorado School of Mines could soon be preparing the next generation of scientists and engineers to responsibly explore, extract and use resources not only on Earth but also on the Moon, Mars, asteroids and beyond.
Mines is planning to launch a first-of-its-kind interdisciplinary graduate program in space resources in 2018. The first course, Space Resources Fundamentals, will be offered for the first time this fall, to be followed in the spring semester by a new space systems engineering course, design project class and seminar series, all focused on space resources.
“In recent years, there has been a growing interest by space agencies and the private sector in resources found beyond our planet, such as water, gases, minerals and metals, to be used in space, instead of launching them from Earth. This often-called ‘living-off-the-land’ approach has been driven by an awareness that further development of space travel will be enabled through processing of materials and production of propellants in space for more affordable and flexible transportation, facilities construction and life support,” said Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Mines Center for Space Resources and research associate professor in mechanical engineering.
Through the proposed Space Resources Program, Mines students would develop skills to design systems for exploration, extraction, processing and utilization of space and planetary resources. Instruction would focus on the scientific, technical, economic, policy and legal aspects of this developing field, from a multidisciplinary group of experts in academia, space agencies and the private sector.
Mines has been a leading institution for the study of space resources since the 1990s. The field brings together many disciplines in which Mines has a world-renowned presence, including remote sensing, geomechanics, mining, materials/metallurgy, robotics/automation, advanced manufacturing, electrochemistry, resource economics and solar and nuclear energy.
“We believe Mines is the perfect place to launch this exciting new program,” said Kevin Moore, dean of the College of Engineering and Computational Sciences at Mines and a strong proponent of the program. “Colorado has the second-strongest aerospace economy in the country and the Front Range is rapidly becoming a hub for what is being called the new space economy. For example, there is considerable interest in technologies for producing fuel outside Earth from resources extracted in space, to propel missions to destinations such as Mars. No other institution has the specialized expertise related to resource extraction and utilization that we have at Mines. It makes good sense for us to apply that expertise in this new area.”
Post-baccalaureate certificates, master’s degrees and doctoral degrees are expected to be offered once the program is fully approved and implemented in fall 2018.
Mines faculty across multiple fields and departments, as well as space scientists and engineers from government agencies, private-sector aerospace companies and the mining and mineral industries, will be engaged with the program to provide a rich and multifaceted experience to students.
“With more than 140 years of expertise in terrestrial resources, we see Mines uniquely suited to also lead the way on the next frontier of resource extraction and utilization. And that is up in space,” Abbud-Madrid said.