Space Resources Program Approved For Fall 2018 Launch

Mines student Caroline Ellis works on her team’s water extraction system as Research Associate Professor Angel Abbud-Madrid looks on at the 2017 NASA Mars Ice Challenge. Image Credit: Colorado School of Mines

A first-of-its-kind graduate program in space resources will officially lift off at Colorado School of Mines this fall.

Post-baccalaureate certificates, master’s degrees and doctoral degrees will be offered through the unique interdisciplinary program, which aims to prepare scientists, engineers, economists, policymakers and entrepreneurs to responsibly explore, extract and use resources on the Moon, Mars, asteroids and beyond to fuel future space exploration, cislunar development, as well as needs back on Earth.

The Mines Board of Trustees approved the new degrees in December and the Colorado Department of Higher Education signed off earlier this month. Mines officials are preparing to begin accepting applications for fall 2018 starting this spring.

“This is the very first program in the world in space resources – there’s been interest from space agencies, aerospace and mining companies and entrepreneurs around the globe,” said Angel Abbud-Madrid, director of the Center for Space Resources at Mines and research associate professor in mechanical engineering. “People in different stages of their careers are excited about this next phase of space exploration and how we can take what we’ve learned on Earth and apply it in space.”

More than two dozen students living in five countries across three continents are currently enrolled in the program’s pilot class, Space Resources Fundamentals, a distance learning-enabled course that was offered for the first time last fall. A second pilot class, Space Systems Engineering, debuted this semester and is being taught by recent Mines hire George Sowers, professor of practice in mechanical engineering and former chief scientist at United Launch Alliance. Other core classes will include space resources-focused design project courses and graduate seminars, with technical electives spanning prospecting, mining, extraction, power and energy, engineering systems such as robotics, and economics and policy.

Mines has been a leading institution in 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. Instruction in the space resources program will focus on the scientific, technical, economic, policy and legal aspects of the developing field, taught by a multidisciplinary group of experts in academia, space agencies and the private sector.

“Colorado has the second-largest aerospace economy in the nation. This program is a great way for Mines to have a presence in aerospace,” said Christopher Dreyer, associate director of the Center for Space Resources and research assistant professor in mechanical engineering. “It is unique and appropriate for Mines with its unparalleled expertise in resource extraction and utilization.”

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